Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 42

Welcome to Friday! Do you hear that giant sigh of joyous relief? That’s me, now that you’re here. Even though this is the last week of September, which is totally wrong, do you hear me, WRONG. I’m trying not to weep too much over how time flies, even though I’m not kidding, we’ve just enjoyed seventeen Fridays back-to-back. Speaking of back-to-back, I hear that current dragon champ Carlos Orozco is looking to pull a Michael Seese and nab a second crown in a row today. Crazier things have happened, so I’d watch out.

Moving on to the prompt: today’s anniversary is rather a somber one for our friends in Japan. On this day in 1954, the rail ferry Toya Maru sank in a typhoon, killing over 1,150 people; and exactly five years later, Typhoon Vera hit, killing over 4,500 people and leaving 1.6 million homeless. Vera is still, to this day, the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in Japan. It’s to the memories of these ones lost in typhoons that today’s prompt is dedicated, with a deeply respectful nod to brilliant photographer Shuji Moriwaki. As ever, I dare you to tell the story lurking beneath the surface of what you see.


Also lurking beneath the surface (and right behind you, in point of fact) is returning judge Aria Glazki. She too loves stories that stand out for originality and fresh concepts. As you all know, that’s tough to do in a crowd. But possible? oh yes, dearests, you have proven it possible week after gorgeous week. Read more of her tips (in her own words, this time) 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, head inland 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 “Hakodate”):


***Today’s Prompt:

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shijo Moriwaki.

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki.

666 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 42

  1. I Am Not Me

    I can feel a pebble in my shoe.
    It presses into my flesh in a way that makes me notice it more than the pain of the heels themselves or the bite of the narrow elastic hem of my stockings.
    I remind myself that I am not me.
    I do not feel these things.
    I would squirm in your cafe, laugh when I should not.
    Your harajuku world apart from me.
    But I am not me.
    I am the sum of the parts of things you left behind.
    I am the girl who smiled with grace and frowned at the prospect of a boring life.
    I come face to face with that which conquered you.
    I stare down the deceitful water, placid today.
    I feel the threat of my tears, my anger, and my pain.
    But I am not me.

    I am your ghost, your living reminder.

    147 Words

  2. Tempest
    by JM6 (160 words, @JMnumber6)

    It had been so long. Tim had come back with the typhoon, wreaking as much damage on her life as the winds and water had wreaked upon the islands themselves.

    “Wear that outfit,” he’d said. “You know the one I mean. I’ve got a fish lined up, ready to be hooked and cleaned out.”

    The con was simple. Distracted by the oh-so-quirky pretty girl in a goth maid costume, the fish fell for the story of the leaking chemical plant damaged by the storm, with a huge inventory that needed to be sold quickly, at discount.

    Then she’d answered Tim’s phone by mistake and spoke to his wife.

    On the last day, she handed the gas masks to Tim and the fish. The fish was sleeping it off. Tim’s mask contained something a bit stronger and he was sleeping at the bottom of the bay. She looked out at the dying storm and debated whether or not to join him.

  3. Josh Bertetta
    158 Words


    “Anything to say for yourself?”


    “We both know that’s you.”

    “Are you kidding?” He fanned his face and wiped his brow. “That’s a woman. Got any water? Aspirin? I’ve got a killer headache.”


    “What am I doing here anyway? You don’t have anything on me. If you did, you’d already have arrested me.”

    “Do you think you can deceive me? You don’t think I know what you wanted to put in that water? Look! Take a good god—“ He shivered with the word. “—damn look. I know that’s you.”

    “That’s not me. Sure you don’t have any water?”

    “Quite sure.”

    “I’m telling you, I didn’t do anything.”

    “But you thought about it.”

    “Yeah, so?”

    “Well, that’s what you’re here for. What you wanted to do. And that’s why you’ll be staying the rest of your years with me. A lifetime sentence. What? You can’t remember?”

    He rubbed his forehead and felt the bloody hole.

  4. The One

    Here lies, John Brown.

    We met after the plague started. We developed a friendship while the whole world died. We shared tragedy and a whole lot more.

    He said he wondered why we were not getting sick. I knew why I wasn’t, but why wasn’t he? After a few more weeks, I became suspicious.

    We attended a lot of funerals. First together, than separately, as my concern grew. He didn’t understand why I distanced myself.

    After our separation I continued watching him. As the disease wiped out everyone else, only him and I were unaffected.

    Could it really be that we were the same? I hoped not. But his good health confirmed it.

    I invited him to join me here. I handed him the invitation in person. He came so willingly, so hopeful. So unsuspecting. Didn’t he know?

    There can be only one.

    143 words

  5. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count:150


    I’ve come for you, petty citizens, wandering down your dusty streets, wallowing in your luxuries, heedless of time.

    The sun rides a full circuit across the heavens as you jest your way through another tasteless tease, another laugh at someone’s expense.

    The blazing light of day blinds you to the encroaching darkness of night. Your eyes are pleasure-stricken from your gluttonous revelry.

    The ashes of your sins fill your mouth, but you have yet to taste them. Innocence fled long ago, slaughtered by your lust for pleasure.

    Whose gray gaze is this who stands beneath an umbrella, bleeding a dark shadow across your games?

    Clear your vision, citizens of earth, for black is my mantle, the mask is my scythe, the rope, my chain.

    You’ve made a date with death; beware, lest you are late.

  6. Shinigami

    I stand by the bay and look out, my heart wearier than it has been for a dozen generations. I can feel the coming pain raging through what is left of my soul and I truly wish to weep, to wail, to gnash my teeth and cry to the heavens. There is no point though. There is duty and love and sacrifice; this I knew when I took up the mantle.
    It is not for the dead that I weep, I carry them onwards and give them what hope I may. It is for the living, those left behind by the passed. Such pain they will carry, their burden hanging upon them all their days until they relinquish it on the day we finally meet. I would take it from them, but that gift is not mine, I minister to the lost.
    Across the bay a mother begins to scream and my vocation calls. For now, tears will have to wait.

  7. Ashes of Destruction

    She stood on the wharf holding everything she owned: an umbrella and her father’s gas mask. She dressed in the maid costume that was popular with her American lovers, but even the outfit didn’t persuade them to take her. She stood abandoned at the edge of the sea, a gift to the ominous waves crashing against the concrete dock.

    She didn’t dare return to the pink salon. The thought of the other girls taunting her for her gullible nature was unbearable. Instead she remained, clutching the gas mask and listening to the static of rain above her umbrella. She stood erect and welcomed the typhoon that would decimate the city.

    But neither pride nor storm caused her death. Her death had been fated long before the cataclysm’s conception. It had been penned during a time when voluptuous mushroom clouds kissed the sky; a time when fathers sold their daughters so new lives could be built on the ashes of destruction.

    160 words

  8. Duel

    He hadn’t noticed me leaving.

    Kazuhiko, I mean. We’d been kissing until Emiko arrived, in her corset and fishnets. He’d been like a flame-blind moth for her, then. They all had.

    It was a stupid party, anyway. Masahiro decided we should wear black and bring an emblem of death; I took grandfather’s gas mask, and it had gone down well, at first. Now, it felt stupid.

    Emiko’d brought nothing. Of course. But nobody’d noticed.

    I walked right to the cliff’s edge. Mist beaded on my skin and clothes, hiding my tears.

    The scream made me drop grandfather’s mask.

    It took me forever to stumble back. I called out, but everyone was gone. Except one. A stranger on the ground. I hurried to his side, and turned him, and the blood…

    Kazuhiko’s knife – his death-emblem – stuck from the boy’s neck. Without thinking, I pulled it free and threw it into the bushes.

    Nameless blood lay heavy on my skin.

    158 words

  9. The Weather Watcher
    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog
    157 words

    Its twisted face, grey and angry, stretches across an area the size of a continent. Its hailstone teeth nibble the ocean surface, hungry for land. It picks up speed, its force quantified in categories and its breath measured in three digits. It is the child of a billion storms before it and the killer of millions.

    Her face is calm and her skin is like delicate porcelain. Her teeth hide behind a smile of reassurance. She does not move, but lets the umbrella and gas mask flow in the irritated wind, hoping it will turn back of its own accord. She is alone. She remembers when our universe was just chemistry and physics, and time was yet to be born.

    It has killed too many now. It has become too greedy. It cannot happen, not here, not again.

    She laughs at it, for it is nothing. Today, the only death will be the death of a storm.

  10. @pamjplumb
    159 words

    It’s me, even though it isn’t. I wouldn’t wear that even to a fancy dress party. But in the dream, it is me. Always the same. Every night. Ever since…Well, you know when. It’s not just the outfit, it’s the gas mask, the death mask I call it, and the rope, and the wide, wide river. It’s like I’m telling myself ‘Do it. Kill yourself.’ But I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to. What happened to me is not my fault. Is it? No, definitely not. And that’s in the dream, too. I’m alone, yes, and somewhere awful. I feel it is so terrible this place. Full of menace and grief. But I have shelter. In my right hand, (it’s always the right, meaning good, right?) I’m holding an umbrella. So even when I wake up terrified, I think back to the umbrella. I know I’m going to be alright. I will get through this. I will survive.

  11. Hanami For The Kami (Blossom Party For The Gods)

    Sakura No-hana walked to the end of the breakwater. She could feel the storm rising, the wind coiling like a serpent poised to strike.
    At the end of the path she rolled up her parasol – it was an affectation, like the gas mask. But people like a bit of theatre, it helps dilute the bitterness of reality. Today’s distraction would be ‘Maid who walked into the storm’.
    She climbed across boulders, chunks of granite that appeared immovable, but which the ocean would toss around like a Mongol invasion fleet.
    On reaching the final rock she bowed towards the coming storm and praised the wind, and thunder, and sea. A short haiku for each of them. Hopefully they would be appeased.
    The first gust of wind tugged her clothing and drove spray against her face. An answer of sorts. She smiled, and dissolved, becoming petals driven by the coming storm.

    150 words

  12. Vera, Meet My Sister

    I left her standing on obstinate rock, her face turned against the silver swell.
    ‘Go now,’ she said. ‘I’ll greet her when she comes.’
    She stood facing north while I fled south, away from danger, away from the storm.
    Like one soul in two bodies, that’s what they said, each their own person but together complete.
    “Do you know what the other is thinking?” our school friends asked.
    “Yes,” we replied together, and they laughed.
    A childish joke, but it was true. I’d felt her pain like it was mine: her birth pains (twins again!) or when she drank too much wine. I’d shared her sadness, her love, her hope. When news of the storm came, I shared her disappointment that my fear was only for me. She was always the selfless one.
    Now it is time for me to take cover underground. The storm has found land. I will endure, even though I am no longer whole.

    158 words
    Also published at http://www.microbookends.com/


    Brian S Creek
    145 words

    It won’t be much longer now. I don’t know how I know this, I just do.

    Looking out across the river, I watch the surface come alive as if a troupe of fairies were dancing on its surface. I used to hate the rain but here I find it soothing. It was an inconvenience before; something to avoid, to resent.

    Here it washes away my fears and my regrets. I begin to forget about the life I’d been wasting. Years of promise stolen by my idle conditioning.

    None of that matters now of course. My turn is over and I can but stand here and wait to cross to the other side. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family but my current predicament was dramatically void of choice.

    Only the storm had the power to choose.


    Brian S Creek
    145 words

    Tetsuo stepped up beside his sister, wishing the umbrella was bigger. “When did you get back?”

    Sozuku ignored his question. “Do you think they were home when it happened?”

    Tetsuo glanced at the city they’d once called home. “It was late evening. Father would have been tinkering in the shed and mother would have been watching television.” He looked at the mask she held in her hand. “What’s that for?”

    “I have to find them.”

    “Find them? In there? You can’t. The army have it quarantined.”

    She handed her brother the umbrella and made her way down the embankment. Tetsuo was calling out to her but she couldn’t stop now. She was up to her eyeballs in debt to the wrong people and there was only one way save her skin.

    She just had to hope that her mother still wore that beautiful diamond necklace.

  15. The Storm Within Her

    The raindrops reeked of redemption.

    He had deserved it, she thought bitterly.

    From the moment he had first dragged her into the dark scullery, he should have known this day would come. Like dark clouds amassing on the horizon foreshadowing the storm.

    At first she had been distraught.She knew no one else in this country, had nowhere to go. And he knew it. Her helplessness emboldened him, and when he was done filling his stomach with the food she had cooked, he would drag her to the bed with sheets she had cleaned and force himself on her. The detergent smelled of betrayal.

    The kitchen had only one window. Tied to the chair, he had begged. From the safety of her mask, she had watched him flail, till his last breath dissipated in the gas.

    She dropped the rope on the wet street; the mask dangled from her hand.

    The clouds part. A new future on the horizon.

    159 Words

  16. We All Have Our Roles To Play *** Judge’s Entry, just for fun! ***
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke)
    158 words

    This is my punishment, she said, for sleeping with the French maid. I have to wear this costume and stand here for eight hours. God, I had no idea how much high heels hurt! I’m rather digging the stockings, though; I always did think I had nice calves.

    The gas mask is to show how noxious my behavior was. Whatever. I can’t think of anything more toxic than our non-relationship itself.

    The rope is in case I feel like ending it all, she said, a smirk playing across her lips. I don’t think I’ll need it, though: the sheer embarrassment might be enough to cause my death. Maybe I should just bash my head against those rocks.

    I’m not even doing this because I love her. I don’t. I never have. But her daddy pays the bills. Her daddy hires the help. Her daddy is in love with me. And he’s promised me a Swedish nanny next time.

  17. The Pilgrim
    (159 words)

    I brought your ribbon edged shield. For I do not want the elements on my face: they are my adversary today. When it grows darker, and I stumble, laden with possessions and grief, I will downturn it and stab it at the ground to anchor my body.

    I wear Mother’s favourite dress. The fine material is airy reminding me of her bones and how easily they would have scattered.

    I carry Grandfather’s gas mask that we showed and told saved him from Man’s poisons.

    I walk in your racy stockings that Father raged about. They make me swagger like you for a while, and I can’t imagine an energy strong enough to consume yours.

    Father’s hands were calloused by this rope. It smells of sweat and the sea. He was the strongest man we knew.

    The shoes are mine. I walk this pilgrimage alone to the place where Nature stormed at mortals, and my family were carried from me.

  18. Peaceful Typhoon
    (156 words) (@lsunil)

    In front of the river, I close my eyes and reminisce.

    ‘Mummy, I don’t wanna go’ Pete sulked. I was clearing the kitchen and was looking for some quiet time to nap. ‘But sonny, Papa needs help catching the fish’. ‘No go, no go’ Pete put on his shoes, slammed the door. Tim winked at me and both left.

    Never thought that was the last time I will see them alive. It was the typhoon. Tears roll down my cheeks. It wasn’t the typhoon, it was me. Selfish me, as I wanted some quiet.

    I hate this peaceful quiet existence of mine with nightmares.

    I close my eyes, replaying the scene. Every time, the scene ends in a 100 different happy ways with Pete and Tim alive, smiling.

    I open my eyes and see the typhoon swelling in the distance. I close my eyes again and wait for the typhoon. All is quiet. All are dead.

  19. The Waiting Game
    Gavin Parish (@GavinParish)
    159 words

    She played the waiting game. It was the hardest game she had never wanted to play. To play it on her own, yet still end up the loser. Every day was a new spin of the dice that left her standing still. The only rules were to wait for a sign: a letter; a phone call; a knock on the door heralding a visit from a stranger; or someone now strange to her in the years that had passed since she was a young woman, he a young man. As years became decades, he remained ageless to her, in the memories and photographs she clung to while other trappings of life fell by the wayside. She was still playing the game on her final night on this earth, hopeful he might be the last thing she saw, or the first sight to greet her afterwards. When they found the old woman, she had passed peacefully. Her smile was radiant.

  20. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 160

    The River

    From this side of the river, some say it’s just a void, a crossing of the bar. Nobody knows, really, what’s on that other side until they face that wide water themselves.

    I didn’t expect my turn so soon, brought on by the struggle between men, the hatred of flesh for flesh. They’d found me broken in a back alley, my flight for freedom forever shortened by a matter of meters, where the wall crushed me and the mask I’d gripped.

    Now I face this rain-misted body of water, my rippling reflection mirroring my trembling limbs. There’s no instruction manual for death, no sign that says, “Hold here for the next ferry. Wait time: fifteen minutes.”

    Here, at the end of all things, I wish I could see the other side before I take that last step.

    But I can’t.

    I strip off my stockings, one by one, and dip my toe into the surface. The water is cold.

  21. Matsukaze
    154 words

    This is my life – crepuscule, since your magician’s flourish. You’ve taken sunshine, smiles, the hours of the clock, and vanished them. Part of me, too; a pair is less than one with half removed.
    I know all your tricks, your sleights-of-hand, your misdirections, but this, so complete a disappearance, is your best yet. I stand. I wait. What else is there?

    The authorities say you are missing, presumed…but there I can’t say the word. It has no currency. Displaced is what you are, disappeared, and so you must be, still, elsewhere. And so I wait. The spectacle must end, one day; the showman reappears, takes the curtain call.

    Until then it’s not for you, my love, but for myself I mourn. It’s the space, the absence in me I so keenly feel. Where is your magic to keep me alive? How do you expect a girl to survive when you’ve conjured away her heart?

  22. Vera
    160 words

    The young girl clutched the handle of her umbrella as she stared out at the water.

    Cold winds buffeted her body, sending her hair dancing but she didn’t move. Her connection with the ground went beyond the soles of her shoes; she was planted into the earth itself and the land’s sorrow rose up like waves beating against a rocky shore.

    The rain kissed her tears, sending them spiralling down her face as she raised her head to the sky.

    She wished that she could spread herself across the seas and turn her kin away because the people had already lost so much, but she couldn’t.

    The mask fell from her fingers as the wind ripped her umbrella from her grasp.

    She stood alone, unprotected from the elements for just a second and then she was gone, spiraling upwards as her winds cradled the first lost soul in her embrace because contrary to mass belief, death was not always cruel.

  23. The Vigil

    Wednesday wanted to be buried at sea. They obliged, setting him to sail, then sink, beneath the water’s lapping.

    “Should’ve been me,” Thursday said, watching the surface; still post-submergence.

    “Wouldn’t’ve worked,” Tuesday answered. “It’s as it needs to be.”

    “Still – never let it be said you haven’t had your use here.” Friday’s eyes remained turned towards the water.

    “We agreed!” Thursday’s voice was sharp. “You couldn’t have called the storm!”

    “Wouldn’t have,” Friday said, eyes hard now; stare unremitting.

    “Wednesday’s choice, ultimately. As always,” Tuesday said. “Guess I’d want to switch things up by now; hang tradition. Maybe.”

    Friday’s eyes turned towards the one-handed man to her side, eyebrows raised.

    “Sjaund, anyone?” Sunday interjected, smile determined, raising a liquor filled bowl, contents swimming from the sides.

    “Too early yet, surely?” Monday said.

    Sunday shrugged, sipping. “Won’t be long.”

    “It’s time,” Saturday interjected, eyes cast out into the distance. Faces pointed forwards now, together the family watched; expectant of his emergence.

    (160 words)


  24. Harajuku

    ‘US photojournalist seeks street fashion girls for photo shoot. Telephone…’


    She’s standing with her back to me, wearing a monochrome ensemble, holding a black umbrella buffeted by the wind. A quirky, retro accessory dangles from her left hand. I take a candid shot and approach.


    She turns rapidly, unwinding her crossed legs. The flailing gas mask strikes my head. I stagger and, trying to protect my camera, fall heavily onto my shoulder; my temple smacks the stone paving.

    The shadow looming over me coalesces into the face of a young man.


    He thrusts a print of a beautiful Japanese girl in my face.

    “Hatsuko my sister – raped and killed by photographer!”

    He stands. His shoe pushes against my body, rolling me towards the edge of the wharf.

    “You won’t get away with it!” (Stupid cliché!)

    “No witnesses. Crazy American taking shots of typhoon!”

    White clouds… Grey concrete… Charcoal water rushing to meet me.




    160 words

  25. The Butterfly Effect
    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog
    159 words

    She is called a Comma.

    Her outstretched wings are black inkblots on lava-red tissue paper. On her abdomen, a white mark, like a comma, her life in perpetual pause.

    Her mate rests beside her. They flutter and they dance. The musty forest air flashes with their punctuated splendour.

    The net swoops through the air and the boy grins. She is trapped.

    The boy grasps the tweezers and picks her up gently. He doesn’t want to harm her, not yet.

    He engages the trigger on the lighter. First, her wings. And when they are reduced to cinder, he completes his work.

    The male Comma files alone.

    His frantic swirling and diving disrupt the atmosphere microscopically. Airflow disrupts airflow. Pressure builds on pressure. Until the breeze becomes swirl becomes storm becomes typhoon.

    On the shore, the girl faces the typhoon. She cannot run or hide. She faces it armed with tatty umbrella and broken gasmask. Her fate determined by delicate wings.

  26. Ocean’s Warning (142 Words)

    You stand on the edge and mourn. You look into my churning depths and dream of lives lost. Do so at your peril. foolish child, for all dreams are little deaths, and I shall steal a piece of your soul as you stand in sorrow and wonder and awe. I hold many in my keeping for I am capricious and cruel. What is a human life to me? A tiny light to be extinguished, a cry in the darkness. You cannot tame me; you cannot control me. You can only bow before me in fear. At night I will sing my siren song to you, and you will see the faces of the lost. You will pray to your gods for protection, but they cannot help you. When the winds come, I will grow hungry again, and you will know my wraith.

  27. No.2 – Ksaski – Robert Freeman (1956 – 2014)

    ‘I see Ksaski, standing at the threshold, her umbrella and mask symbolic of the acreage of doubt…‘Save me from tedium.’ Her body wrestles against Nubian waters…’

    Christopher adopted a standing slouch. All he saw was a painting of a green square. Leaning over to Juliette he whispered, ‘Geez! Some people always have to go overboard.’ Juliette whispered, ‘Don’t. He’s a very spiritual man.’ Christopher knew that look and tone of voice. It meant she was infatuated with this charlatan.

    Very soon she would stop calling. She would be seen at cocktail parties, hanging from his arm. Then come the tears. Me? I’m always waiting to pick up the pieces. Because this – Juliette – is love.

    I could speak flowery words too but truth doesn’t need dressing up; the truth will crucify you. The fact is darling, you’ve nailed me up more times than I’ve had hot dinners. I’ve come to love the nails, the holes and the bitter gall.

    160 words

  28. Clean-Up

    Thursday sighed heavily staring out over the water, she had a big task ahead of her. She really needed the work, and this was the only slot available, but being a Typhoon Maid was far from her dream job, at least it got her off of the cramped orbital. Despite the stomach turning stench, the air here was slightly fresher than the station’s. She examined her supply list:

    A heavy-duty hose connected to a super-duper power washer Check.
    Hundreds of thousands of gallons of industrial strength bleach Check.
    Cute black umbrella to keep of the acid rain Check.
    Sexy short black maid’s uniform trimmed with white lace Check.
    Black-and-white stripped knee socks Check.
    Shiny high-heeled black shoes Check.
    Today’s inoculation badge prominently displayed Check.

    Well she had better get to it, cleaning up after the death of all the people left on the world was not going to be easy.

    159 Words

  29. Carousel (at the Sign of the Inverted Pyramid)
    159 words (puns included)

    Mourning came early to the quaint little village, somewhere in the neighborhood of Luxembourg. The town had seen its share of travesty and injustice, today was no different.

    Freedom had become an illusion, wrought by masters who enslaved the unwary. Haggard and strained they watched in odd fascination as the procession laid waist to the ravaged beauties that were paraded before them.

    From the looks of things War and Pestilence had already taken the stage: could Famine and Death be far behind?

    I watched as each victim grew paler and more somber than the last. Proud plumes of sable, coiffed in a fine mist of perfumed glory, gave way to more bazaar offerings.

    The final nail in the coffin: a girl in black wedged heels, wearing striped socks and sporting a black parasol.

    “Fashion week in Paris,” I sighed.

    My editor rolled her eyes. “Tell me you aren’t keeping the puns.”

    I shrugged. ’Fashion is dead,’ is so overused.

  30. Weightless

    The weight of nothing is heavy. Heavier than it ought to be, she thought.

    Trapped inside of everything’s vise, unnamed articles cluttering up her life of days and nights. These things of life, no thing, every thing—nouns—left, abandoned without even a dangling participle at their helm.

    Love, just another thing, hanging heavier in its absence.

    She packed her bags and bourbon, the weight of which made more sense. But left them behind. One last pirouette in knee-highs just for kicks. She’s still light on her feet. The same musical laugh.

    Unleashed misty pain, Mother Nature shared her shame at the mouth of the river. An umbrella kept the direct droplets from soaking her dress, but the mist like his neglect clung to her sodden heart. Bland irony struck from the dangling item in her hand; a thing, the thing, that could have saved him.

    Her last cigarette lit, she inhaled only loneliness while waving goodbye to regret.


  31. Moving On

    157 words

    The boat rose up out of the otherwise still lake. A tall man in a long cloak rowed it to the dock.

    “Finally! I’ve been waiting forever,” Melanie said. She put one foot toward the boat but a skeletal hand and shoved her back.

    “What’s the big idea?”

    The bony hand produced a small pouch and shook it. Coins jingled inside.

    “I don’t have any money on me. Who carries cash?”

    He jingled the pouch again.

    “I don’t want to be stranded on this dock forever! Do you know how boring it is here?”

    Melanie shoved a hand into one of the pockets on her dress. She found a gum wrapper and offered it to him.

    The skinny body heaved with a sigh. Oh, how he hated teenagers. He was going to have to have a stern word with the Winds about choosing their storms more carefully.

    He jerked his thumb behind him and she got in.

  32. Second entry:

    by JM6, 157 words, @JMnumber6

    She dressed in the carefully preserved costume she had been wearing that night, a sort of French maid meets Lolita meets Tim Burton look which had been such a big hit among her friends. Looking back, she couldn’t even remember their names, not since *he* had entered her life. She carefully applied her make-up so that it matched the last time he saw her: streaks around the eyes from her tears, her lipstick smeared onto one cheek. She checked herself in the mirror. Wait. She’d almost forgotten the gas mask, given to her because of the poisonous fumes. Now she was ready.

    Her sister had said she was obsessed, that she was sick, that she needed help. She had replied quietly that it was the “help” given that night which led her to this.

    She stood on the wharf, staring out at the sea, missing the kaiju which had died for her that night, so long ago.

    160 words, @turnerpen2paper

    The Scottish doctor who plucked her from the floodwater was joking – shortened to Flo, perhaps, he laughed – but her parents took to it. They rolled the foreign sounds on their tongues and marvelled at the miracle worker who had not only found their week old baby, but saved her from the vile diseases that follow the retreating tides.

    She washed up at mine one day in September. The winds were high that day too – there were drunk boats right across the harbour, and a falling tree had killed a dog in downtown Sydney. When I answered the door, her hair was slicked to her face like a painted-on bob. She was dressed like a doll, too, in that strange Tokyo style she still favoured. I loved her from that moment.

    A year to the day, the winds rose again. I came home to a flat full of nothing. A lone piece of driftwood lay on her side of the bed.

  34. Beautiful Death
    159 words

    When people think of death, they think of a shriveled creature skulking beneath a long black shroud. I don’t know why it never occurs to them that I might be beautiful.

    Standing here next to the water, mist and the white frills of my skirt brushing against my skin, I wonder why this is. I do my best to soothe them when their time comes. Yet they fear and despise me, especially after the nuclear fallout. They choose to see me as ugly and cruel, not beautiful and compassionate. This brings me pain.

    Down beneath me I see a small child playing. He wears no mask. The poor thing might die early. Panicking, I conjure a gas mask and climb down to him, teetering in my high heels.

    He looks at me, unafraid. Grinning and taking the mask, he says two words: “Thank you.”

    I smile to know that some can see me as I truly am. Beautiful, merciful, Death.

  35. Sins of the flesh
    @geofflepard 160 words

    Taki squeezed until the two tears slipped down her cheek, burning like the first time. One for her father, a second for her mother. She shook with the effort. As the first reached her chin she tossed the gas mask into water that lay as flat as her father’s eyes when she told him she was leaving. With the second tear, she swung her arm, as her mother had done when she found Taki and dragged her home. Her mother’s mask bobbed defiantly before following her father’s. Taki folded her umbrella letting the rain scald her skin. Her every sinew focused on a third tear. A tear for Taki herself, most needed, least deserved. Her first real tear since her face dissolved that cloudy August morning. A real tear, not facile sweat drips. It came in a gush of agony. Taki imagined the smile she could no longer make, as she stepped forward into the tears of a thousand moons.

  36. Stormskipper
    158 words

    A needle of pain pierces my heart. What, what is he doing?

    The bowl shows him talking, laughing, touching the arm of a woman in a maid’s costume.

    Again! They’re all the same. First Hiroshi, then Akio…The water ripples and I realise I am crying. I am furious.

    Another tear splashes down; so it begins. I swirl the water with a finger, and up it goes. One puff, and my miniature typhoon spins through the open window. ‘Find them!’ I shout.

    The storm joins the sea and grows more fierce, lashing up a grey plume. It picks up boats and flings them away as it rushes towards the lovers.

    The bowl is calm now. I watch as she cries out and points. He wheels round, and now I can see that she is not a woman but a tall girl, perhaps eleven.

    How could he?

    I watch my typhoon whip him away from her. She watches, too.

  37. 千代子
    Evan Montegarde
    160 words

    Being last means one knows the absolute desolation of final solitude. The boat would never come for Chiyoko; Mother Earth had ensured that with her typhoon.

    Chiyoko, “Child of a Thousand Generations,” stood waiting in the rain, hope still within her but fading like the weak and watery sun that would never rise again.

    Was it just days before she lived her simple life, tending the mansions of the Yūfukuna she wondered? She had lost all sense of time. For what was time now but an empty hourglass, cracked and lying on its side, the sand blowing away in the bitter wind?

    Her parents had named her for an eternity yet the fates had other plans for her. “Will anyone care now?” Chiyoko yelled at the black universe that rose endlessly above the drooping grey canopy of clouds.

    The splash, icy chill of the gin clear water and the oily depths were met as if a lover had embraced her.

  38. Maid in Black
    156 words
    By Jay Dee Archer (@jaydeejapan)

    ‘What’s the point? They just want to touch me. They don’t see me as a person.’

    Eri gazed out at the swollen Tama River. The rain fell around her as she struggled to hold on to her parasol.

    ‘What am I doing with this? Stupid. It’s not made for a typhoon.’

    The creepy looks of the middle-aged businessman as she handed him his order gave her chills. On the omelette, she wrote, “For my darling master.”

    ‘This is no way to live. I’m twenty-one years old. I’m still playing maid in Akihabara. I’m sick of this. No one cares.’

    She stepped to the edge of the riverbank. The wind tore the parasol from her hands and she shielded her eyes from the stinging rain.

    ‘He shouldn’t have looked at me like that. He is not my master. Never again.’

    She looked down to the water. The hand slipped from the rock and under the rapids.


  39. Hi Rebekah! I had meant to put a space after the line with the “weak and watery sun”, etc. If you could add one that would be awesome.

  40. Akane
    John Mark Miller – 160 Words

    “After rain comes fair weather.”
    Japanese Proverb

    The sky was a livid shade of grey, pummeling the earth with torrential rain. Akane’s heart surged with excitement as the wind ripped angrily at her hair.

    The storm was coming.

    She had never understood her name. Akane meant “angry child,” but she had always been a dutiful daughter. Sweet and docile, in spite of the years of unspeakable abuse.

    But a broiling anger had always simmered just beneath the surface. As she grew older and began to discover her uncanny ability to control the weather, she had understood the importance of managing her feelings.

    Until now.

    Her parents had betrayed her, told the authorities about her gift. They tried to tie her down… to stop her with nerve gas. Her rage swelled, and so did the tempest.

    Crack! Sharp pain… her blouse darkened by a deep, red blotch.

    Betrayed… again…

    The angry child slumped quietly into oblivion, taking the tempest with her.

  41. Words: 159

    He dressed me in a maid outfit and stockings, all the while looking at a photo of a woman holding an umbrella and gas mask in the rain wearing a similar outfit. Once he was satisfied that I looked like the girl in the picture, he gently set it on the shelf and locked the bedroom door. As he used my body the storm grew fiercer and the widows rattled more violently than the fat rolls on his stomach. The glass broke. He jumped off the bed in alarm and bumped against the bookcase. I watched the bookcase fall on him. A moment passed and I peered over the edge of the bed. Blood oozed from a gash on his head. I felt the cold sting of wind and rain against my skin. I ripped up his cherished photo that had flown of the shelf and crawled out of the window. A stormy day had never looked so bright.

  42. Clean Break


    I didn’t turn, but said, “Go away, Katsu.”

    “Huh? I just got here. You asked me to come. What are you wearing?”

    I shrugged. “Party costume, I’m waitressing. Doesn’t matter. Just go away.”

    “You asked me to come,” he repeated. He sounded confused. My brother was always confused about anything which wasn’t music.

    “I asked you to come to tell you to go.” I enjoyed the polarity of that line, spiteful as it was. I’d rehearsed it. “You made Mom cry again. You’re a selfish bastard. Since Grandad died you’ve been making her miserable and I’m done.”

    I finally turned. Katsu frowned at me. I was too tired of his shit to care.

    “Go away and don’t bother calling. You make millions of people happy with your music but you make your family miserable. Enough is enough.”

    I brushed past him, swinging my gas mask jauntily. Clean break. His gaze followed me but for once I didn’t care.

    159 words

    Author’s note – this was therapy for myself after a hard day. I’ll now go and write a properly thought-out story. Thank you Flash Friday for giving me somewhere to vent my anger 🙂

  43. Retribution
    (157 Words)

    The reckoning was always a powerful storm.

    He heard her footsteps and the vein in the side of his temple throbbed, pulsating like a cloud waiting to pound an unsuspecting sea.

    His arms shook, his silver hair shimmered in the harsh fluorescent light, and his trembling fingers crept across his face. He shivered as if a thousand centipedes wandered across his skin. Interlaced fingers arched over his head, like an umbrella, but his thin arms offered no protection from the onslaught of emotion.

    His monsoon pummelled, and amid the deluge she approached.

    She wore the gas mask this time, but he knew what lay behind it, what he’d left, the empty husk, the lost child. She carried the rope, swinging gently at her hip, and he knew one day her ligature marks would be his.

    Tears fell, but no redemption, and it was her striped socks that drowned his mind.

    The reckoning was always a powerful storm.

  44. Truth or Dare

    The maid outfit is so cars will pick her up, the gas mask, so they’ll drop her off.

    “What’s with the mask?” they always ask.

    “Truth or dare?” she counters.

    A nervous laugh. A lustful glance. Then, either:

    Truth— “It’s cursed.” She smiles, cheeks stained by mascara that runs down her face like poisoned tears.


    Dare— “Pull over. See for yourself.” Lashes thick as spider legs tangle together in a wink that is simultaneously threatening and alluring.

    She doesn’t know what they see when they put it on—and they all put it on—only that one man pulled a gun from his glovebox and fired it into his eye. Another climbed back into his car and accelerated over a cliff. The last one had screamed “Ng’thu cthar!” before lighting himself on fire.

    A car approaches, catches her stockinged legs in its headlights, and pulls over. She climbs inside.

    A hand falls to her knee. “What’s with the mask?”

    160 words

  45. Molli was tired of peering through cloudy plastic, living in a bubble which made a dead world even more lifeless. She wasn’t a fragile flower to be kept in a hothouse for fear of frost. If the fog was to be her end, then Molli needed it to be on her own terms.

    Artifacts from when the sun still shone and the human race hadn’t gone sterile drew Molli to dark rooms as soon as she was old enough to explore on her own. Locked in a killing jar, she ached to experience beauty.

    It was difficult putting on such thin clothes after a lifetime of fear, but when she smoothed the black and white socks over her legs, she’d smiled.

    Her first breaths outside without a mask were sweeter than expected. Though this was a journey from which she could not return, Molli strolled leisurely along the beach. There was beauty still to be found, even in death.

    159 words

  46. *** Judges entry – just for fun ***

    Doggy Paddle

    I was asleep when Murphy’s tongue ran hurriedly across my face. I pushed him away, cursing, but then I heard the sound of distant screams. My heart raced as I fell out of bed and rushed to the window. There was water rushing down the street, cars floating lazily along as tiny figures swam frantically against the tide. Trees leaned like drunks, fighting against the bullying winds.

    A stray branch whipped up, crashing through the window next to me. We couldn’t stay here.

    I threw on the warmest clothes I could find and ran to the door. The stairs were already underwater. I waded in, Murphy right behind me. I was doing fine until that wave, and then I was underwater. I tumbled, losing my bearings. As my lungs burned I felt a familiar shape and grabbed on, Murphy dragging me towards salvation. As I gasped for air I turned to hug my saviour, but he was not there.

    159 words

  47. CLOSING SCENE 1988
    (Judge’s Entry Just For Fun)

    Who gives a gas mask as a present? You’re such a freak.

    I picked out your headstone today. It’s hideous. A giant fat-ass stone cross as big as my butt. You would hate it.

    You would like my mourning outfit, though. Especially the shoes. I stole the ones you wore at your last cabaret.

    Your uncle said he would tear my head off if I show up at the funeral. With his bare hands. I don’t doubt it. Have you seen the man eat ribs?

    I wonder if they’ve figured out that’s not you in the casket yet. We put your ashes in with Daisy like you asked. Now I’ve just got to get this damn cross over there.

    I wish I could slap you, one more time. You can’t slap ashes. They just go all over.

    Me and my striped socks are off to the cemetery, dear. Wish me luck.

    I hate you.

    154 words

  48. I Can

    I want to sing the moonbeam lullaby to you. I want to pour the light of the morning sun into your eyes. You are no longer in the cradle, but I won’t forget the moon-streaked nights and the jingle of the musical mobile over your cradle that rocked you to sleep, because I couldn’t, or maybe I wouldn’t, as Eri always said.

    You are fifteen now. Your blank eyes, the high heels, striped stockings, short ruffled skirts, the hours spent in the damp basement, the masks, the ropes, everything worries me. Eri was lucky. Even the typhoon preferred him and left me alone here watching you disintegrate. I couldn’t sing to you then, but could I save you now? I wouldn’t, Eri would have said.

    The rocks dig into my bare feet. The rain slaps me around, and I think I can’t reach you. But Eri isn’t here, and I know I can. I ,will fill your eyes with life.

    160 words
    #FlashDogs (May I use this?)

  49. The Kami

    “Mama was a great wave, daddy was the wind.”

    The storm sings its lines of clouds. It sings a song of destruction and death. On the hills above the village, the stones of the ancestors, warning against typhoons. Nameless, now. I, too, have no name.

    I stand against the storm. I do not stand alone.

    I have watched the stars form, seen the earth creating itself, where the lava meets the sea.

    Today, I stand with the islanders in the Maldives, the marchers in Melbourne and Montreal, the crowds gathered in the cities of the world. Voices call me, raging in their beauty.

    I stand with polar bears and butterflies. I stand with the people yet unborn.

    Is this how they picture me, with my parasol and gas mask, silent and unmoving? I calm storms with the wave of my hand.

    Today, the typhoon dies without a name. Voices call me over the shining waves. I do not stand alone.

    160 words


  50. *A Careless Man*

    It was the second time a police officer had handed her the toy truck.

    ‘Do you know why your husband had this at work today?’ The officer spoke softly.

    ‘It was our son’s,’ she replied, wiping her eyes.


    ‘Yes.’ Her voice shook. ‘He died.’

    ‘May I ask how?’

    ‘A car crash … a year ago … today.’

    The officer shuffled his papers. ‘Your husband was driving.’

    She stroked the truck. ‘Our son had this with him.’

    ‘It says here your son’s car seat wasn’t properly secured.’

    ‘I blame myself. Michael is … was rather careless, so I always checked, but that day I …’

    The officer coughed. ‘Do you think Michael might have forgotten to check his safety equipment this morning, or …’

    ‘Or do I think he deliberately went in there without it?’ She thought back to the morning, to standing on the riverbank, to hurling the mask through the air and watching it smash the water. ‘I really don’t know,’ she said.

    160 words

  51. Being in the orient, we really should have an actual dragon, shouldn’t we? I think the form is 5/7/5 haiku all through, but it was hastily formed so apologies if it’s slipped.

    148 words

    He coils, eagerness
    shimmering from his scaly
    flank. His voice thunders.

    ‘Hime, cast your pearl!’
    My parasol I unfurl
    Against the salt spray.

    He thrashes his tail,
    Sends waves cascading landward
    As I let it fly.

    Go, Ryu-Jin! Race, chase
    The flaming pearl, send lightning
    From your snapping jaws.

    Brightness floods the sky,
    His kiai booms, shakes mountains;
    Every heart trembles.

    From the shore they stare,
    Terrified. Tatsu! They cry.
    Sirens Prophesy.

    Father pays no mind,
    The pearl glimmers on, pacing
    His winnowing flight.

    He plunges, climbs, churns
    Sea and clouds alike, landward
    Turns and all take fright.

    Ryu-Jin grabs the pearl,
    His snaking body crashing
    Into foaming sea.

    Watch the people flee!
    Houses dashed by dragon’s play,
    Coastlines swept away.

    They weep, curse their lot,
    Rain tears as hard as Ryu-Jin’s
    Waves…and watch me wait.

    Appease him, they’ll cry,
    Presenting offerings, and
    With a smile, I’ll try.

  52. “True Skin”
    160 words

    Through wind-lashed rains, Nori’s voice finds her, a reedy flutter against her eardrums.

    “Even if you find it, he won’t take you back,” he insists.

    Above the jetty, the sky curdles around her longing. Umi lets her gaze slide from the pewter swells to Nori’s shivering spectre. He lifts his chin. Obstinate, even in death.

    A wave bursts against stone, washing a satchel into the shoals.

    Nori’s embittered cry sends Umi scrambling over the rocks. Within the bag, she finds iridescent mail. Impenetrable and intimate as the pulse of the tide.

    Nori was wrong. Storm-scaled, thunder-coiled, her beloved is still there, waiting for her.

    As she slides into her shimmering skin, splinters of ice sink into her flesh. Her body elongates around sublimity. She plunges into his serpentine embrace.

    Nori calls, “Did you ever love me?”

    A surge shatters the breakwater, scattering his essence. Love. As if the human heart could fathom love’s abyss.

    Twin serpents entwine across the deep.

  53. Jenna’s little maid’s skirt was the only thing that either of them were wearing, and it flared fetchingly around her bottom as she hopped off the bed and headed to the closet. Marcus’ head was swimming – from the sex, sure, but also from whatever she had slipped in his drink.

    It took Marcus a moment to realize that the dangling thing in her hand was a pair of handcuffs. No woman was going to do that to him, not without paying a price. As he tried to sit up – and couldn’t – Jenna deftly slipped the cuffs around his wrists and the headboard.

    She reached down under the bed and grabbed the mask she’d ordered online. The poison she’d put in the drinks was getting to her, too, but the antidote was an aerosol, and she didn’t want her sister’s rapist to accidentally inhale any of it. That the rubber straps pulled and pinched his skin was just a bonus.

    159 words
    #FlashDogs story number 2

  54. Phantom of Honshu

    Some of the villagers say that Takara still roams the globe, coastline to coastline, declaring war on wind and rain to avenge her father’s death from the famished typhoon that had swallowed him whole as he harvested clams for his daughter’s beloved miso soup. They say she can rip a storm apart with her wrathful hands, pry open its virulent heart and peer into its chaotic soul. That she laughs maniacally when the sky clears, when fear turns the whirling assassin into a coward, a flaccid breeze.

    But if you ask the right old-timer and ply him with shots of shochu, he’ll spin you a different tale. That Takara never left the beach that claimed her father. That she sat there for ages without food or sleep, a buffet of dwindling hope her only sustenance. That she’s just a heap of mournful bones now, with a lone skeletal hand reaching through the damp sand pleading to be grasped one last time.

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    160 words

  55. Due Service

    Shi stands, black clad, before the water’s chill. Bronze has crossed the coin-eyed’s palm to dive their depths already – servitude now due. It is hers to perform; the nine time circle into pain’s swamp, past drowsy oblivion; beyond fire and wailing. Hers to see that he drinks of the infernal rivers; brackish and brine filled, pre return; cup filled to the brim. He will choke at their taste; a spilled splutter. It will be enough, even so. Pitch unremitting at the epicentre, repetition will suffice to see them to the surface, though the journey is longer in the making now, each time. He will not remember the struggle; scarce still Shi’s name when waking, coughing, atop solid rock. He will not know the cost for his return; the price paid to swim within the realms. He will not recall the salt sodden tears shed into his glass. He will never know she exchanged a portion of her life for his.

    (160 words)


  56. I’ll Never Find You

    159 words

    Where are you, Daddy?

    I’m all alone, you left me. I’ve been looking for you everywhere and I can’t find you. Where are you, Daddy? Did that wave take you? Did it swallow you up and take you to play with the mermaids?

    Where are you, Daddy? You said I was your princess, that you’d look after me. I was your best girl. Why did you leave me? Why did that storm come and take you?

    I’m lost, Daddy. I’m scared and I don’t know where to go. I’ve been looking for you, looking for so long and I’m tired.

    Don’t be angry about my dress and the mask, Daddy. I was hungry. The man said he’d pay me if I wore them. I’m still your best girl, aren’t I? Am I still a princess? I don’t feel like a princess. I feel dirty, Daddy.

    Are you dead, Daddy? Have I lost you? Come back, Daddy. I’m all alone.

  57. The Flow of Farewell

    It started with the death of a mouse, and a funeral.

    She said goodbye to little Pierre where’d she’d met him: Sumida canal. Kissing his whiskered nose, she sent him off like a little Nordic king in a paper boat.

    She’d found the castaway a moment later, his alien body as broken as his craft. Gathering him up, she took him home. Tending turned to mending which turned to citrusy-sandpaper kisses and feathery tendrils tantalizing her skin. Love was a forgotten concept in the 31st century, but he’d sworn it to her nonetheless.

    A year flew by in ecstatic delirium, as passionate and implausible as he was. Now as she watched his craft lift from Sumida’s brackish watercourse, the loss suffocated her. His discarded respirator squeaked a protest in her clenching grip.

    A different king, a different kiss, but little more than another goodbye in the end.

    148 words

  58. Waiting for a Good Life
    158 words

    I’ve spent hours deciding what to wear, my great grandmother Kayku always says accessorize and if not happy accessorize some more. So that’s why I’m here waiting, holding her husbands gas mask. He wore it most days to avoid the smog. He was before his time, waxing lyrically about the need for healthy lungs. He didn’t survive Hiroshima but Kayku said good lungs weren’t essential.

    I’m waiting; I’ve been waiting all my life. Kayku smiles when I say that. She’s two generations older than me. She’s seen her daughter and granddaughter die taken by the winds. She’s tried to shelter me like a tall bamboo, strong and unyielding.

    I stand proud and wait. The ships will arrive soon and my heart will sing.

    He smiles shyly and points to the gas mask. I giggle.
    He takes my hand and leads me from the quay.

    I wonder what America will be like. He asks my name.

    I reply “Vera”

  59. You Know Me
    (140 words)

    I am the symptom you discovered this morning.
    I am what stirs in you when you lose sight of your young child in the play park.
    I am the phone piercing through your silent slumber in the middle of the night heralding death.
    I am the loud clatter in the room upstairs when everyone else is out.
    I am your child chasing their bouncy ball out onto the busy road.
    I am your tyres skidding and slipping on ice.
    I am the long pause between the words that the doctor is saying.
    I am the empty swing creaking at the bottom of your garden.
    I am the steady beat of footsteps you hear behind you in the lane.
    I am the breath you cannot catch when you are choking.

    I am your darkest anxieties, and you, you are my plaything.

  60. The Lucky Toy
    160 words

    Umbrella held proudly over her head, Hamako minced precariously towards the bay. People stared at her, laughing at this crazy middle-aged woman parading through town dressed like some gothic parlor maid.

    But they didn’t know.

    They didn’t know that for mother’s day her son had picked out this outfit for her. A hideous outfit, really. A black and white affair with striped stockings and a horrific poufy skirt with white frills.

    She loved this outfit. He had chosen it for her, all by himself, laughing childishly and swinging his gas mask. He always called it his lucky toy.

    He left it behind when he went swimming in the bay. She couldn’t help thinking it might have brought him luck that day…might have saved him.

    Reaching the bay, she stood with crossed legs, staring into the muddy water. Toy gas mask dangling from her hand, Hamako refused to turn and look at the people staring critically at her.

    They didn’t know.

  61. Stand

    Soft pitter-patter on my umbrella. You’re getting closer.


    I am looking forward to meeting you. I even dressed up for the occasion, Harajuku style, because this is who I am. Let that be clear.

    Of course you must think I have lost my mind. And maybe I have. You see, typhoon Neoguri, who came here before you, took my parents, my brother and my grand mother and reduced them to debris, floating defenselessly in a swirling stream of mud.

    Today will be different. Today I wait here, at the edge of the harbour wall, to look you in the eye. Every gust of wind you hurl at me, I will scream back at you. Every drop of rain you throw at me, I will spit back at you.

    I will stand. Attached to a dolos, mask on my head.

    I will stand.

    Come and give it your best shot.

    150 words


  62. Kitty shook the ruffles of her dress after dusting each shelf. There were many, many shelves in the house.

    She paused her programming while new information arrived. The dusting would have to wait. Monsieur wanted a limonata.

    There was an odd smell in the kitchen. Kitty weighed her priorities, and delivered the chilled limonata before returning to the kitchen to locate the smell. She found a dead rodent under the pantry, and disposed of it promptly.

    Three whole days went by without anything interrupting Kitty’s schedule. The fourth day, she entered Monsieur’s bedroom, only to immediately retreat due to the foul odor emanating from within.

    She donned a gas mask and returned. An odd, stinking, fleshy thing wearing Monsieur’s robe was rotting on the bathroom floor.

    The thing was too large for the chute, but the canal behind the house swallowed it whole.

    Kitty’s regular routine was not disturbed again for many more years.

    154 words @USNessie

    I’ve been busy getting THE CITIES OF LUNA ready for publication, but I just couldn’t resist this prompt! It’s nice to be back.

  63. The Footlocker

    No one else remembered the battered old footlocker.

    When the shock wore off – and it was a shock, no matter how old he was – all Trixie could think about was the long afternoons she’d spent kneeling beside it, sifting through an old man’s memories while the musty smell of old wool and old pictures and old relics filled her nostrils.

    Ginker had a story for everything in there and while her mom worked, Trixie listened to all of her grandfather’s tales and begged for more.

    Even though she knew she’d have to answer for it later, she skipped the funeral to say her own private goodbye. When she opened the footlocker again, the thin raspy voice rang in her ears one more time.

    She watched the family service from the opposite bank of the river, her thin fingers clenched around the strap of the ancient gas mask he said had saved his life.

    “I’ll miss you, Ginker.”

    160 words

    • I like how the footlocker becomes a symbol for the long life of the grandfather–a more intimate ceremony for the MC than a funeral could ever be. The “smell of old wool” brought me into the world.

  64. “Drowning”
    by Michael Seese
    159 words

    The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.

    They’ll never find the body.

    Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.

    Water cleanses all sins.

    Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?

    An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.

    Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…

    And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…

    “No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”

    She turned to face her lover.

    I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.

  65. Yominokuni

    From the dockside Emma-O watched crested horses leaping over the lurching ferry’s bow. A grey cloak of rain concealed the rest of existence and, not for the first time, Emma-O wished she had more than her umbrella to shield her. Yet as father had reminded her, first impressions counted.

    Her phone purred in her hand distracting Emma-O from the vessel’s struggle, her twitter feed exploding with doom-laden hashtags.


    So many lost souls, yet all Emma-O could do was keep to her routine, trust that people would survive nature’s onslaught.

    For what was she without people?

    The boat docked, ropes thrown, tethering the swaying vessel to land, a gangplank extending out. Tentatively the first of the passengers disembarked, rain slickening skin and clothing.

    “Welcome everybody, sorry about the conditions.”

    Silently they gathered on the dock, confused, uncertain.

    “Are we all here? Excellent, well just follow my umbrella and mind your step.”

    Emma-O led them away into eternity.

    160 words

  66. The Dragon’s Daughter

    She was tired of the sea, the endless damp. She wanted to be a girl, and walk the solid earth.

    The sea dragon was not pleased. “The ways of men are not ours,” he warned. “They care for nothing but themselves.”

    “But the boys are beautiful,” she pouted. “And the girls are so much fun. Why can’t I be one, just for a day or two?”

    As any loving father would agree, the dragon was unable to refuse her.

    She picked out her outfit, parading happily in platform shoes. She tossed her hair like girls do. So pleased was she with her reflection, she vowed to never come back.

    Days went by, and the dragon king sent trusted scouts to find her. They did not return.

    The heartbroken father sent tears of rain. Winds raked the island like claws. But she chose to live and die in the world of men. Blame the weather on the dragon’s daughter.

    160 words


  67. The Maiden

    Here the smog gathers in the dusk, the sailors carouse and the failed courtesans compete, and through these alleyways the stink writhes. It is not the ingrained stench of dead fish. This belongs to Yamatanooroch, never seen nor heard, but forever binding the weak-willed to its evil.

    Bekku swaggers from a smoking den into the fetid dark, his victim blithely, drunkenly clinging to his muscular arm as they weave along the quayside. He carries knives, more than are necessary for defence, more than are needed to skin a fish. He pushes another mouthful of genshu between her rose lips before taking a swig himself. She giggles at the cat he kicks from a sprat.

    “You kick cat!” accuses a housemaid emerging from a doorway. Bekku leers at her, then notes her mask. He drops his drunk to draw a sword and lunge. She has leapt. Bekku nods his appreciation… headless.

    Walking home The Maiden reflects: her work is never done.

    @CliveNewnham – 159 words

  68. “Fury”
    By Adrienne Myshel@amyshel7
    (160 words)

    Littered with bloated bodies, the putrid waters belched her up onto the shore to survey the wreckage of her rage.

    Skin slimed in green-black algae, hair festering with seaweed and eel, she stood and listened, but heard only the absence of din. No boat-making, no fishing, no waterfront cobblers, no cry of seagull or child, no barterers’ song.

    Even without her eyes, nibbled away long ago, she knew that the doomed townspeople of Harthe had finally, deservedly, joined her cold watery realm.

    Where a tearful yet weak mother had taken an infant, swaddled in cloth, where the child’s father-not- father watched his wife’s betrayal sink beneath the dark tide. The town had shuttered its windows and looked away, while on the ocean floor, silverfish swam through her mouth and crabs picked clean her flesh.

    One day she would return as fury.

    Her mildewed lungs began to fail in the typhoon-moistened air. Vindicated, she withered, and dried up on the rock.#


  69. “If You Make It”
    159 words

    It felt like rocks bombarding my umbrella, when I glanced around, the rain was barely a sprinkle. The air was spine-chilling, my body felt numb.

    An obscure looking boy stared at me, his thin, hollow eyes dashing any thoughts of good will.

    “What’s happening!” I pleaded, angst-ridden. The last thing I remember is an oxygen mask flapping down from the ceiling. Where did the other passengers go?

    He just stared pitifully.

    “What am I doing here?” I questioned, shouting over the pelting on top of the umbrella.

    “Whatever you do — don’t let go. That’s all the advice I’ll give you,” he said in a callous tone.

    “But why?” I said, looking up. The thuds were becoming harsher, my arms started shaking.

    “Just — hold on.”

    I stood, huddling in closer to my umbrella, clenching it tightly. “Where is everyone? Where do I go?” The thuds became louder.

    “If you make it, you’ll know where to go. If you make it.”

  70. “The Spirit of the Typhoon”
    160 words

    The last drop of strength evaporated from Ikuo’s arms. He thrashed, stubbing his toes against a mass of debris.

    At once, a ghost took hold of him, the spectral son of the storm—so cold, so very cold. Shards of ice pierced the broken knuckles of his left hand. A waterfall of slush tortured his right forearm.

    Ikuo thought he heard the ghost laugh through the pounding and ringing in his head, but decided that it mustn’t be. The specter lived only in his mind and his mind could not bear the cruelty of laughter.

    The toe of a heeled shoe caught Ikuo’s eye. He shifted his gaze, over a shock of pale skin to the hem of a young girl’s dress. The point of a leather scabbard rested there.

    Ikuo watched a knife enter his neck, then fade into mist with the hand that held it.

    The spirit of the typhoon laughed before she proceeded toward her next victim.

  71. I Am Myth

    The rain danced upon Hinata’s umbrella, the greying skies a refrain to the melancholy in her heart. It was foolish to mourn. For so long death and destruction had blighted the land. Yet as she had cast the last victim into the dark turbulent river below she felt only regret.

    It seemed inconceivable that once she cruised for temptation in neon lit realms, flitting between gyrating bodies. The world filled to the brim with potential.

    Now there was just her.

    Hinata dropped her umbrella, rain slickening skin as she slipped the gas mask off her face. Her ally that had disguised her on those nights of hunting yet was now inconsequential within a realm of solitude.

    Hinata breathed in deep, dead batteries filling her lungs, toxins rushing to corrode her veins. She knew she could have carried on, scavenging, eking out an existence.

    Yet what’s the point of a serial killer when there was nothing left to kill?

    158 words

  72. Following On

    The first nail is the hardest.

    She is too tense, too scared, untrusting of the drugs, the numbness, that the depths of her agony extend further than the pain could reach. Then it is in, her blood splashing across his favourite of her outfits, and she relaxes.

    The second nail is almost a tickle, pinning the mask in place at her left temple, balancing the first. She knows why she is doing this, but she has lost the words to explain.

    The third nail drives upwards, through her jawbone, and she is not sure if she sees the lake through craze-cracked lenses or if it is her own sight which turns his resting place to a kaleidescope of fragmentary despair.

    She drops the fifth nail, the sixth, slipping from blood-slick fingers to fall through the jetty. She grips the hammer ever tighter, lines up the seventh nail in the centre of the mask.

    She pictures his face one last time.

    160 words

  73. Sisters
    (154 words)

    Aoi ignored the footsteps behind her.

    Midori tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey sis, what’s the gas mask for?”

    “I’m going to where Dad died.”

    “They won’t let you in. It’s still too dangerous.”

    “”Midori, I don’t want to lose anyone else. Can’t you come with us to America?”

    “I have a career and a husband here. And no, Mom can’t stay, because her new job isn’t here.”

    “If Mom died too, we could stay with you.”


    Aoi thought about explaining why she was afraid their mother might hurt Akane, but gave up on it; she wasn’t even sure Midori really understood the true strength of the bond between the twins at all.

    “Aoi, you can’t take stupid risks, and don’t even joke about killing anyone. Akane is so fragile; she needs you.”

    “I know. Dad’s death hit her hardest of all. That’s why I’m following her. To stop her from following him.”

  74. It’s My Job

    They say a storm goddess is never loved. But I would like to be loved. It’s not my fault my job is making typhoons. It’s what I was born to do.

    I think perhaps the humans will find me easier to appreciate in my new outfit. Striped stockings, high heels. A risqué French maid uniform. I will appear young and quirky. Who can hate a girl in striped socks?

    I have to wear black because, to be honest, I cause a lot of death. Do I like sinking boats and drowning fishermen? Do I like knocking down houses?

    Honestly, I’ve never done anything else. Someday I’d like to retire to a desert and write a romance novel.

    Even dressed in my comical new clothes, I can’t escape what I am. My sassy ruffled umbrella keeps off the damn rain that follows me everywhere. Storm goddesses never know a sunny afternoon at the beach

    Right now, I’d kill for a tan.

  75. Whirlwind

    I kept him in a bottle, in the days when he was just a whisper. He was my secret sigh, my tiny, hidden breeze.

    He began to grow stronger. He fled the bottle, and I’d laugh as he rushed past me, tousling my hair.

    I grew up, swopping socks for stilettos. And he grew, too. He became cold; an unwanted draught across my back, an uninvited rippling through the frills of my clothes.

    I shut him out. He whined and howled, shaking the windows and rattling the doors. And I couldn’t see him, of course, but I knew that the small, sweet breath that I’d bottled and kept was no more. He had become no different to the roaring, catastrophic beasts from my nightmares; the billowing monsters that no rope could bind.

    On the day he left, the world felt so still I could barely breathe.

    I stood and watched the gently rolling mists, dreaming of what might have been.

    160 words

  76. Obedience
    160 words

    “Give him to me, Siri.”

    Siri handed the little boy down to his mother, who stood on the lower lip of the tiered dock.

    The man beside Siri handed her a gas mask. “Remember: only when the poison becomes airborne.”

    “Yes, master.”

    “Don’t follow us. Wait here.”

    “Yes, master.”

    She held an umbrella over his head as he shimmied down the rope to join his family. All three disappeared into the underground waterway.

    A siren sounded. Siri looked out over the village. Silent packages dropped from approaching airships. Houses ignited and a green mist rose with the smoke.

    The robotic maid jerked as her legs attempted to move. If she remained, the poison would eat away her synthetic skin, fuse her processors, and she would cease to exist.

    But her master had told her to stay. Her preservation protocols could not override her obedience chip.

    Siri strapped on the gas mask, raised the umbrella, and watched the approaching green mist.

  77. Morning After

    Gas mask dangling from her hand, Maddy looked across the water at the road. The rain tapped lightly on her umbrella, but didn’t register as she tried not to think about what had occurred the night before.

    The wind blew her skirt around her thighs, reminding her she was still dressed in the costume she’d worn to the party the night before. It had started out innocently enough, but then the gas was released and only the fact that her costume had included a gas mask had saved her.

    Now she stood on a precipice and needed to decide what to do. Behind her was a house full of dead bodies that she had no idea what had caused them. Before her was an open road that could take her anywhere if she was willing to rifle the bodies for keys.

    She needed to make a decision.

    Word Count: 147

  78. Trash and Bones (160 words)

    From the detachment of the binocular’s lens, I could see the tombstones bobbing in the ocean, names obscured by the seaweed and trash.

    The beach was scattered with bones. Skulls, femurs, tibias, ribs and sternums protruded from the wet sands like ancient fossils.

    Clean it up. That’s what my boss said. While others had been tasked with searching for the living — or rather, the surviving — I was meant to piece back together the dead.

    And yet, all I could hear in my head was that damn American song I’d heard on the television as a child:

    “The hip bone’s connected to the back bone, the back bone’s connected to the shoulder bone…”

    The sing-songy tune played in a loop across my brain, as I watched a tombstone coughed up by the ocean crash into the shore.

    Wood coffins were being trucked in from Kyoto once I was able to organize the salvageable. Mass-produced death holders.

    “Foot bone’s connected…”

  79. Complicity
    159 words

    “Ready?” asked Kazu the club-owner’s son.

    Yukari straightened her costume. American tourists had unrefined tastes, preferring a clichéd French maid to real kinbaku. Money twisted art and people into lesser forms.

    “Meet me later?” Kazu groped her.

    Yukari flinched. Nakamura had seen Kazu’s touch.

    Shivering, Yukari stepped onstage. She stood motionless as Nakamura peeled off her costume.

    The spectators grew quiet when Nakamura brought out his rope and hooked it over the beam.

    He worked gracefully, tying her into erotic knots. Rope-drunk already, Yukari submitted.

    He’d never tied her throat before.

    Yukari’s eyes widened.

    She recalled their first shibari show. Afterwards she’d fled to the levy, frightened by the raw intensity. Nakamura had followed, hot and demanding, nearly shoving her into the water, enraged at her leaving.

    Some people could not avoid edges.

    Nakamura pulled the rope. Yukari suspended, bound in an arch. Nakamura’s new throat knot pressed, blocking her breath.

    The sex tourists didn’t know what they witnessed.

  80. Sacrifice

    The monster’s tastes in women were rather ordinary: young, with geisha-makeup, dressed like French maid. His only odd requests were the striped socks and the gas mask.

    “Why the gas mask?” asked the representative from the Japanese embassy.

    “So she can stand to be near me,” came the monster’s response.

    He specified exactly where he wanted the girl left on the shoreline. The umbrella had been a last minute improvisation. His sacrifice requested something “to keep the rain from making her makeup run.”

    The perfect face of a geisha should not be destroyed.

    One of the attaché’s gave her a frilly umbrella. It gave her the look of a woebegone Mary Poppins.

    “It seems so unethical,” the owner of the umbrella observed. “Allowing a human sacrifice, in this day and age.”

    “She volunteered. It was her choice. One death to avoid hundred, possibly thousands of innocent lives lost.”

    “What will the storm God do with her?”

    “Whatever he wants.”

  81. Getting Off on a Technicality

    Like, decades before I was born, these typhoons made landfall and totally messed up everything. I guess people drowned, and everyone was so freaked they decided to appease the, like, typhoon gods or something with virgin sacrifices.

    Anyway, the names of all the babies born in a specific year get put in a box, but the totally stupid part is the family whose kid’s name gets picked? They, like, think it’s some big honor. Adults are, like, completely unfathomable.

    When they picked my name, I’m sure my parents were beside themselves with honor.

    I let them think I was into it, but I used that year of preparation to get pretty much anything I wanted. When I got dropped off by the river where I was supposed to drown myself, I had a couple of surprises.

    My breathing apparatus didn’t upset them because, well, air runs out.

    Turns out, they’re totally serious about the virgin thing.

    Man, sorry to disappoint.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    160 words

  82. [Even though Van Demal beat me to it, I couldn’t NOT do a haiku with this one.]

    146 words

    Pinioned in the sand,
    Salt-water crusted servos
    Click. Eyelids open.

    Azure Lotus 5,
    Handcrafted in Sri Lanka,
    Blue eyes keep vigil.

    From passing ferries,
    Tourists snap photos of her
    Programmed loyalty.

    They titter over
    Her parasol parody
    Against the tempest.

    Bellows softly fold,
    Exhale matcha-scented steam.
    Internal clock beats.

    Taiko thunders drum
    Down another night; storm-tossed
    Clouds sweep away days.

    Titanium rusts
    Mechanisms to stasis,
    But software persists.

    Her maker strove to
    Prison her precision core
    In a dollied shell,

    The quaint satin frock,
    His frivolous afterthought.
    Click. Her smile locks shut.

    Immune was he from
    The pain that ever pulses
    Through a well-tuned heart.

    “Just a day,” he’d said.
    She’d waved his ship from shore with
    Lubricated care.

    Storms don’t break ferries,
    Besides the one that broke his
    And shipwrecked her here.

    On infinite loop,
    She executes his last words:
    “Wait for me, my dear.”

  83. The Edge of the World
    147 words
    ©Creations in Poetry & Words

    Scaling the edges of the galaxy, she balanced on the border of a nebulous
    She looked across the chasm, darkness invaded her eyes
    The expanse would be difficult to maneuver
    “If I can just make it to Orion, life awaits.”
    Equipment check: rope, harness, anchor, axe
    If she makes the scale, she’d be the first
    She breathed in a long nervous breath
    Her race depended on her, humanity had been stilled
    They fell to their death in the chasm below
    Mostly women who were attempting to cross over, procreation on the brain
    She had to make the trek, he waited for her with high hopes
    Hope for a new life; she was the last of her kind
    He was waiting for her, to start over anew
    He beckoned to her from across the chasm,
    She spied him and thought, “Now that’s a celestial body worth dying for.”

  84. This entry is not for consideration, for alas it is too long, but I was inspired nonetheless.

    The rain was the perfect background to the scene before me. A cookie cutter village filled with quaint shops and even quainter people slept soundly, smoke flowing endlessly from the stacks puncturing the skyline like sharp needles. I scoffed at the town’s naivety. A monster of their own making stood on their very outskirts and they had no clue.

    I looked down at the mask in my hand, it’s bulbous lenses almost bug-like in appearance. Memories of darkness and pain from years past embedded in the leather surrounding the reflective circles washed over me. Scenes played out in my mind of a young boy strapped tightly to a wooden cross, fear playing out through the eyes I had procured for him, pleading for me to save him. I closed my ice blue set and remembered calling out to him, “Charlie!” my voice faint compared to the angry yells of the townspeople behind him condemning him to death. To them, he was an abomination, an atrocity to God himself. They forced me to watch as a torch was thrown onto the kindling surrounding his feet, his screams the last sound he would ever utter.

    A tear brushed lightly down my cheek as I was brought back to my reality, my need for revenge fuelled by the flashback. Dropping the mask at my feet, a strike of lightning almost mocked me with its presence. It had marked life the day I had brought my creation into being, but today it would signify death. So much death.

  85. Paying the Ferryman
    149 words
    Before she slid beneath the waves, he snatched the necklace off her neck – and that was when all Hell broke loose.
    A boat broke the surface of the water, her body pinned to the bow. A black-robed ferryman stepped into the water and drug the boat ashore. His eyes were all but obscured beneath a ragged mane so long it met and blended with an equally shaggy beard that fell to his knees.
    “This your work?” He asked, and pushed the body off the bow.
    The killer nodded, mouth dry. The necklace flew out of the killer’s hands and drifted to the outstretched fingers of the ferryman.
    “They say imitation is the highest form of flattery,” the ferryman said. With one hand he lifted the killer from the beach, although his eyes never left the necklace. “They never say what it is exactly when it involves your daughter, though.”

  86. Parasite
    152 words

    The ferry should have been here two minutes ago. If it is much later I will be late to work, and my employer will dock my pay again. I can’t afford to lose any wages. The parasite demands watermelon and beef. It will torment me until I give into its pricey demands.

    This wretched creature is destroying my body. It violently rejects anything I put into my mouth, sending back room service if it is too hot or too spicy. It keeps me up at night, while demanding I sleep during the day.

    I must resign. Today. I cannot keep cleaning toilets three times during a job. I cannot lie down on a bed before I make it up. As I lose my right in society to earn a living, I will have another mouth to feed. To survive, I must find a mate. This child is the death of my freedom.

  87. “Mal’s Party”
    150 Words

    Gina had a feeling all day that something wasn’t right about Mal’s party.

    She’d crushed on him for a while, and she didn’t hesitate when he invited her. He’d never thrown a party before and promised it was to die for.

    Having her dress as a maid? Surely. But when he asked her to bring a gas mask and rope no questions asked…she started feeling iffy. She got iffier when he told her to walk to his house; no means of getting there other than by foot. Oh, and no phones.

    But she did it. Got everything, and was prepared to walk in the pouring rain for him.

    She turned the corner, and saw how far away his house was, deep in the mountain valley.

    “That’s really…really far.”

    At that moment she remembered some cookies & binge tv viewing were waiting for her at home.

    He’s not that cute.

    • That made me laugh–starting with “iffy” and “iffier”. A great tone throughout, her easygoing acceptance of Mal’s wishes to thinking better of it all, even her justification (or her instinct’s justification).

  88. Halo-Shoe Narrative #3427
    Word Count: 160
    Elisa @AverageAdvocate

    There wasn’t ever the sweet grass prairie when she dislodged her aviators. Dee always found herself somewhere fantastical: a foreign landscape, some pounding club, or a colonist’s ballroom. She’d sigh, hike-up her stockings, and embrace the plot.

    This time wasn’t any different; she stood proud on a mute slab’s edge. Relieved, she wasn’t scared of this cement. An expert judge, Dee already knew here was too idyllic to be another futuristic dystopian.

    Instead, her attention was silently screaming at the rope swinging with dead-weight. Not again. Dee hated bringing calamity with her. But she ceased premature blame-casting, for who knew when he’d jumped the brink?

    Story commenced; she nudged her toe at the coil, hoping to uncover a clue. No reason to keep her shoes clean, for the scarlet sequin-sparkle had shed-off literally ages ago.

    On cue, her aching companion flared–that gut-wrenching longing–for her blasted, world-warped, clicking heels take her to where Em’s apple pie is served with cheddar.


    • So, I attempted italics and bolds in this post, and according to my guide I was supposed to add periods at the end. The guide failed, and now I have three extra periods I can’t remove. After the title, after the first italics (ever) and the last (not again). Ideally, you can read this without those formatting errors? I hope.


    • A fun mash-up. Loved virtual reality with a generous sprinkling of Oz throughout this. The concrete imagery kept me anchored in the story (hike up her stockings, rope swinging with dead-weight, the shoes, and especially apple pie with cheddar).

  89. Our Mario Is In Another Castle
    [Disclaimer: The following 158 words written by a judge are either a story or a Nyquil-induced dream, but either way are ineligible.]

    Growing up, the others called you a tomboy, but you never listened. Awash in the glow of the CRT, the outside world faded away. Miyamoto was your Moses, Sakaguchi your savior, Carmack your king. A universe was at your fingertips; an electronic world in need of a pixelated hero. Nothing else mattered. You fought past floods, storms, and mad scientists; you lived morality tales in stark black and white, splashed with 8-bit color.

    Your parents fretted. Your teachers worried. They couldn’t see that your world was bigger, more intense. From the tragedy of every player death, to la petite mort of those brilliant victories, you took those virtual lessons to heart.

    Growing up, the others called you a tomboy, geek, video game nerd. Now the jealous ones call you much worse, but your investors call you ambitious, cunning, and determined. The others say it’s lonely at the top. You tell them to shut up and enjoy the view.

  90. No Sunshine
    (155 words)

    She handed me a breathing mask as we met.

    “He wanted you to have it.”

    “What?” I said, “Today? It doesn’t really match my suit.”

    “Be nice, Stephen. Please.”

    Studying her more closely I raised my eyebrows.

    She sighed, “It’s all I had in black.”

    I held the mask up to my face but hastily lowered it when I caught its acidic scent.

    A smile formed at the corner of her mouth, “He did like you.”

    “That’s debateable” I muttered, taking another tentative sniff.

    Her eyes drifted to the small gathering on the docks where a woman in a oversized hat carried an urn.

    “He would’ve wanted you to wear colour.”

    “Yes, but Mother…”


    “We should join them.” she said, not attempting to move.

    After a moment I said, “You know it’s not raining, don’t you?”

    “It’s a parasol.”

    “It’s not sunny either…”

    She took my hand. “No,” she said, “But it will be.”

  91. Last Breath After Coma
    150 words

    Ghosts of the past and memories too painful to bear haunt me as I stand on the riverbank gazing at water. A distant beeping temporarily distracted me but soon ceased. I can hear soft voices but know not to whom they belong. Still as a statue, I longingly strain to hear what they’re saying.

    My mind begins to wander, and I think about how as a child my parents told me the same story every night. When I asked where it came from, they only assured me it was a story. But I knew better.

    Images of an accident in the water assail me, and instead of a river, I now see myself on a bed. My parents sit next to me but cannot hear me when I try to speak. They’re telling me the story one last time as my heart aches for one last chance to say good-bye.

  92. There!
    Do you see the clouds boil against the sky and come crashing to the earth in great and magnificent waves? Do you see the leading edge like the underbelly of the sea’s fury, churning with dark laughter framed in jagged splintering teeth?
    There, is where I will be.
    Dispatched to this edge, this blood soaked band of gems twisting along the errant coastline, I’ll stand: the last watch, letting go of what I am to become what I could be.
    Do you feel it? The swell of the Fujin drawing breath, pulling against the old tragedies of the body. It tugs against the curled handle I squeeze in my grip and purling inside the