Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 47

WELCOME to Flash! Friday! If this is your first visit, let me warn you: you’re in for one crazy ride. Thank you so much for spending some of your precious time & words here. We can’t wait to read your story(ies) – you can write up to two! –  and get to know you!  

REMINDER: Only a few days left to apply to the Flash! Friday team as judge. This is a fantastic way to give back to the community and improve your own writing at the same time. Join the party! Deadline’s Nov 10; learn more here.

For today’s prompt: I’ve been harping quite a bit of late about thinking outside the box, teasing stories out of the photo that discard the obvious. In keeping with that theme, you should know that while the obvious prompt is Halloween, we’re going in another direction altogether. Today in 1517 — almost exactly 500 years ago — Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Talk about a nuclear move… Where your story will go?? Take it to radioactive levels this round. We’re suited up and ready for you.


Today we bid a deeply grateful farewell to faithful judge Aria Glazki. (Hasn’t time flown??) In addition to loving a well-placed comma: realistic characters, vivid descriptions, and a fascinating premise really get Aria grooving to the beats of your story. Read more about what she looks for 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 your hazmat gear and rip the door off its hinges!

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 specifically instructed to do so, e.g. “include a town named “Worms”):


***Today’s Prompt:

Caution. CC photo by Oleg.

Caution: Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg.

469 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 47

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 150


    The gray drab of the wall called to me.
    Its ashy color clung like tentacle vines that wrapped around the fibers of my being.
    In the mists of the End, I stumbled where I stopped.

    “Choose,” said the monk, as he stood before the doors.
    “The door to the right is where most decide to go.”

    “What’s behind it?” I ask, trembling.

    “Prosperity, wealth, riches.
    You will fill your maw with them,
    And they will choke you in the end.”

    I eyed the second door, the smaller one.
    Rust stained its face, a warning sign heralded danger.

    “And that one?” My voice shook.

    “Death. A gentle friend who will lead you quietly to slumber and rest.”

    I drew in a deep breath, releasing the air that blanketed my lungs in a cold chill.
    I took a step, a tiny one, toward the small door.


  2. The Elements of the True Faith
    by JM6, 160 words, @JMnumber6

    Brother Lehrer approached the sacred portal with humility.

    “On this day,” he intoned, “the anniversary of the banishment of the writings of Saint Einstein, Saint Hawking and the Blessed Nye, I have been sent here by my brethren. I have studied the ancient manuscripts and gleaned all that may be understood from them.”

    The monk paused for a response. Weakly, a green light flickered above the sacred portal. He bowed deeply.

    “I am honored to be recognized. I bring the following prayer in the hope of a deeper understanding of our faith.” The monk began chanting:
    “There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium . . . .”

    He chanted for one minute and twenty-four seconds. At the end of his recitation, there was a clanking sound and the sacred portal opened.

    A man dressed in white and yellow emerged and said, “You have passed the test, Brother. It is time you learned secrets of Science, the True Faith.”


  3. Planned Obsolescence

    They named the ship The Wittenburg, a historical reference made by the monks who commissioned it. They were looking for a planet to practice their ancient rites.

    The pilot was a man named Luther. The monks hired him based solely on the name. Luther didn’t ask them why. He locked himself either on the navigational bridge or the captain’s chambers.

    The ship was designed to make just the one flight. On the new world it would become their first building of their monastery. Planned obsolescence worried Luther.

    But it all went as expected. The monks had a new home. Within a few days, Luther’s ride would arrive and take him home. The ship was dismantled and reassembled as an edifice.

    Luther watched with amusement wondering how long their colony, their planned community would last. The monks wondered about Luther too, they wondered if he understood how brief life was and how long eternity was.

    154 words
    Ack. Tamara beat me to the first position.


  4. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 158

    Blame Apportioned

    “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

    The monk’s face through the latticework was blurred, but I knew the concern that creased the corners of his eyes.

    “What is this sin, my child?”

    His voice sent shivers racing through me like cockroaches in the light. He knew my secret; I could feel it as tangibly as the residue of kisses still moist on my neck, tracing my jawline.

    “I—I cannot say.”

    The monk’s face tilted, his eyes searched the ceiling, seeking answers for this wayward daughter of the Devil.

    “As I see it, you may choose one of two doors, child. One door will lead to forgiveness, reconciliation. The other, to a life of sin.”

    I nod, the weight of his words sinking to the heart of me.

    “I see, Father. I understand.”

    And I did. I understood that here sat two sinners. And only one would be forced to choose a door.


  5. *** Judges entry – just for fun ***
    Stripping Atoms

    “Shouldn’t we be wearing special gear?”
    My new partner is fresh from the academy. He looks like the righteous type. I decide to have a little fun, “No need, I’ve developed an immunity to the radiation. Of course my balls have never been the same. Up to you if you want to wear your suit.”

    He sprints to the trunk of the car. There’s a lot of rustling as he pulls on the bulky suit. I wait until he’s done, “Lead the way.”

    He hesitates at the door, eyes glued to the warning sign, “Are you sure it’s in here?”
    “That’s what the dispatcher said. In you go.”

    The first thing to hit him is the bright light, followed by the deep hum. I think he might be screaming, it’s hard to tell. I stroll past him. The music is thumping and the girls are dancing at their poles, despite the noon hour. The fun never ends at Stripping Atoms.

    160 words


  6. Inside Out (160 words)

    The monk, at least he looked like what I thought a monk would look like, brown-robed figure with a shadowed face, shuffled his feet, rummaged inside my chest with his rusty metal instruments, some quite sharp, others blunt and blood, my blood, covered his hands; we were surrounded by what appeared to be a metal shelter and my head was still, as if clamped by a vice, and all the while, the monk with the shadowed face shuffled back and forth with feverish, spastic movements and sweat pooled at his brow; he muttered things, like, “need to find the source of…this,” and “need to for Him,” but it was a weird sensation to see your body being drained of blood, numbed, really, especially to see your own heart, no longer pumping, as it had done for so long, between the monk’s fingers; he still mumbled and muttered about finding “it,” whatever it was; an infinity compressed into mere seconds.


  7. 157 words (I can’t believe I wrote Sci-Fi!)

    The Reformation Always Must

    “… and Martin Luther died of airborne smallpox at the age of ten.”, said the monastery’s remaining holographic teacher.

    Six gifted, bald children sitting cross-legged in a half circle on the stone floor of the crumbling Great Hall listened intently, but remained individually immersed in the array of images and symbols rapidly flashing across the screens of their study panels.

    One child looked up and asked, “I am unsure. What impact did this event have?”

    “Expound.”, said the hologram.

    “As monks of the Timeless Order, are we not taught to eschew ordinary temporal concerns? Is it not understood that what is, is? And what is not, is not? Are we not taught all things are at once and never?”

    “Very good. In our dimension, time, the Great Mask, was lifted during The Ascension of Those Before. Through the Great Omni Cylinder we reconcile all events and all timelines of all dimensions learning, without fail, what must, always must.”


  8. @Bex_spence
    159 words


    From the caverns of the warehouse came the echoes of chanting. A low humming building up to a mighty rumbling crescendo. Slowly opening the heavy rusted door, Nathan watched as the circle closed around his sister. Cloaked in monks robes their faces were hidden, candles lay around the vacant space, their elongated shadows creeping toward her.

    Sidling silently across the dusty floor he crept behind old storage boxes, listening to the murmours of the group he recognised voices from the small town. The headteacher, local librarian and his mums friend from across the road. He looked across at his sister, three years his junior, blonde wavy hair, emerald green eyes, she was just a little girl.

    The ceremonial dagger was unsheathed. As the leader of the cloaked ones brought his arm up, Nathan pelted across the floor, knocking his sister out of the way. Looking up he stared into his fathers eyes as the knife sunk into his chest.


  9. Monk’s Final Tune
    149 words

    Thelonius sat at the piano playing a slow arpeggio. The notes were correct, but there was no soul connecting them together, each was an individual sound unconnected from its fellow. The door opened and he stopped playing.
    “Don’t stop on my account,” said Nica.
    “It’s good. I’m done.”
    “The doctor called. He says the x-rays shows nothing abnormal.”
    Thelonius laughed and said, “Put a man in a room with warning signs, fill him full o’ radiation, then tell him there ain’t nothing wrong.” He rose and went to the window, gazing across the Hudson to the city. “There’s something wrong Nica. The music doesn’t play itself anymore.”
    Nica crossed the room, precise clipped footsteps on the parquet floor. She place a hand on his arm.
    “The music never played itself. That was always you. And you’ll do it again.”
    “No. Jazz is a young mans game. I’m done.”



  10. The Believer

    ‘You will not.’ Does he thinks he sounds like God himself? ‘You will not open that door, Brother Benedict.’

    ‘My lord, the people –‘

    Apostates! Serving their just punishment! Do not interfere in Heaven’s work.’

    ‘Heaven’s work? Being condemned to an agonising death?’

    ‘They made their choice.’ The Prior sniffs, folding his arms across his belly – a belly the people whose screams we can barely hear had a role in filling.

    ‘My lord, forcing them to sacrifice their last crumbs to the Church at this time of famine? Surely they had no choice?’

    ‘All must play their part.’ He licks his fat, wet lips.

    Murmurs rise from my gathered brothers as I step out of my allotted place. Their prayers rumble to a halt.

    I ignore them.

    Five strides see me to the door. I rip down the nailed Proclamation and wrench the chamber open. Heat and horror fill me, but one last step, and I am home.

    157 words


  11. @PurpleQueenNL
    160 Words.

    The Warning.

    Christopher arrived at the door and saw the warning sign. Taking a deep breath, he entered. There was silence. He didn’t like it, but he had to accept it was his work now.

    He walked further into the cavernous anti-chamber, only the sound of his robes swishing to accompany him. He came to another door, pausing for a second. There was still silence. He felt the weight of it on him. They were waiting.

    He stepped into what had once been the nuclear chamber. Rows of those surviving here filled the floor, their backs to him, bent in supplication. He strode past them down a central aisle. Once at the front, he threw back the hood of his cowl and lifted his head. There was an audible gasp at the weeping radiation blisters all over his head

    If it was God’s purpose for him to warn others that it was too soon to live outside, then his work was done.


  12. Promised Land

    The door groaned closed, and Brother Ponder groaned also, dropping onto one arthritic knee before it. He shivered beneath his cloak, and ran gnarled fingers over the rusted hinges, whispering his solemn thanks.

    For each drop of the sacred ointment he chanted prayers and blessings, his fingers tracing delicate ruins as he massaged the oil into the metal. This door had kept them safe for so long, through careful attention and the proper ritual. His father had taught him the words and the motions, that had been passed down the generations. Keep the faith, say the right words, sing the right songs and the door would hold.

    He whispered his thanks, and moved on to the next doorway.



  13. Silence
    160 words

    I used to work in sales. Packed tight, in a small room, on the phone all day, chatting, pattering, arguing, talking talking talking.

    I burned out. And so, I came here.

    The huge oak door closed behind me without a click.

    The first few years were wonderful. Ordered, patterned days mostly spent on my knees in prayer.

    But then it happened. I was summoned by the Abbot. They needed help in the shop, and he knew I had sales experience.

    That’s the problem with a vow of silence; you can’t argue. I bowed my head, and accepted it.

    The till in the monastery shop beeps every time you push a button, and the drawer rattles out.

    People pick things up and put them down again without *thinking*.

    And they say ‘Oo, I wonder what they think about all day’ to each other.

    I can hear you, you know. I could respond, but I choose not to. That door is closed.


  14. The Prophet
    (160 words)

    Sci-fi silver makes me sad. You know what I mean? An already nostalgic notion of the future: silver robots that go ‘Brrrr’ – picture book perfect. But I guess you are all more innocent, now.

    I see the future, when I close my eyes. It burns red orange there.

    Monk helps me make sense of it. The Dream Journeying is necessary.
    He says there have always been people like me. He writes down the stuff I say in my dreams. He reads it back, and it makes me cry. What we do to ourselves then, it would make you cry.

    Teacher said I should see the psychologist just because I wrote about it in a story. She said the story was clever but disturbing. She’s trying to contact my parents.

    Monk says he’ll take care of it. She’s interfering, play her game for now. He says we’re nearly finished. He says I’ve given him the names he needs.


  15. Status Update

    ‘You must keep your distance; you don’t want to cause a reaction.’

    Jed stared at the man, swathed in rivers of orange serenity. His eyes were alive with wisdom; folds of knowledge and truth scored his brow.

    Jed fingered his iPhone, desperate to take a photo (he had originally suggested a selfie but his fellow tourists recoiled at the irreverence) and now he was left with a void on his timeline that needed filling, lest all 3025 of his friends didn’t think he was having an awesome trip and being spiritually enlightened by the East. Which he wasn’t.

    Chuckling, he wondered if there was an app for taking surreptitious photographs. He hadn’t realised he had laughed out loud until his face had become spritzed with the shushing of his tour group. Man, these people were serious.

    Pretending to check his email, he took a quick snap and looked guiltily over to the wise man.

    In the photo, he was smiling.

    160 words


  16. With Improvements
    160 words

    One of the fingers twitched.

    “You did it, Doctor Edgar!”

    “I want to shout ‘it’s alive!’ but it’s so cliche.”

    “You deserve it,” Buster said.

    Doctor Edgar clapped his assistant on the hump. “You’re right. IT’S ALIVE!”

    “What’s going on?” the body asked.

    “Well, my monk friend, you foolishly opened a door marked ‘radioactive.’ I’m afraid you died,” Doctor Edgar said.


    “Never fear. I have brought you back to life!”

    “Alive with improvements,” Buster said.

    The monk lifted one arm.

    He screamed.

    “The raccoon has very nimble fingers. They will come in handy,” Doctor Edgar said.

    “Handy!” Buster giggled.

    The monk twisted and rolled off the table. His expression of panic betrayed his intention to flee, but Doctor Edgar had one more surprise.

    “It will be difficult to walk until you’re used to the goat legs.”

    The monk screamed again and collapsed in a puddle of tears.

    “You’re welcome,” Doctor Edgar said, and Buster served him a celebratory beverage.


  17. Seed of Life
    By Brittni HIll
    160 words

    The monk took another slice of the woman’s heavily petalled heart. She didn’t move. Her chin simply quivered.
    Mikkal wished he could ease her pain. She had to be awake throughout this entire process. Her heart had to be flush and ripe with excitement, or this was all for naught.
    He peeled away another layer, but still could not see the seed. Frustrated, he wondered how much more she had to sacrifice for the hearts of the nation.
    Blood trickled down her arms from the shackles above her head. Her eyes fluttered. She was drowsy, but Mikkal pressed on
    Another slice.
    And another.
    Until finally, nestled between the last two slices of her heart, laid the seed. He slipped it in the mouth of the first stillborn child.
    “Breathe!” He shouted. And it did.
    They all did.
    Parents cheered.
    Silent amidst the celebration, Mikkal stared at the child with the seed. He did not look forward to their next meeting.


  18. Achieropoieta
    160 words

    I feel the bursitis in my knees, the years of yearning wrung from my hands. To trust the evidence of my eyes! Just once to know it to be true! In loaves I’ve seen it; in tea leaves; in fabrics, walls, plants.
    They called me from my prayers that morning; from my daily plea – my challenge to Him. For weeks I’ve been testing this door.

    Doubt is a worm in the soul, a monk’s cancer. The Lord’s work I thought it. Searching for truth, hoping that I might be permitted a glimpse… wanting only to believe. Doubt has been my shadow. Year upon year there were only lies. Find the fakery, they say. Not belief but proof. What’s the opposite of faith?

    I make a psalm of my tears. I cannot prove it false – but to hope it’s true? The opposite of faith – not doubt, but certainty. This is my sign, my reward.

    Here, finally, there is room to believe.


  19. Monkshood
    160 words

    Forty of them came that night, eager to contact the dead. They walked into the gray warehouse, the rusted door creaking shut behind them. Sitting at the round table, they stared at the small glasses of liquid placed in front of each of them.

    “Drink,” a voice from the shadows commanded.

    They drank, believing it to symbolize the beginning of the séance.

    Stepping from the shadows, a man in brown robes looked at the heretics, eyes glowing with crazed triumph as he watched their frightened faces. He walked out of the room, the few who tried to follow him falling into spasms upon the ground.

    He locked the door behind him and firmly nailed a radiation caution sign upon its surface. Nobody would dare enter here for some time. When they finally came in search of these forty ungodly, it would be too late.

    Only he would know the cause of their death.

    God’s wrath and a small plant: Monkshood.


  20. Signs of Spring ** Judge’s Entry – Just for Fun **
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    160 words

    We are trapped in a nuclear winter, she and I, our marriage long since rusted over at the edges.

    I stand at her door, wondering how much longer I can endure this monkish existence. I’ve know others who’ve turned elsewhere for comfort, for solace, for a bit of human touch.

    I don’t want to be one of them.

    I raise my hand against this barrier, which, like her heart, might as well have a “CAUTION: KEEP OUT” sign emblazoned across it.

    How do people come to erect such walls between them? Two halves of a whole becoming like magnets that repel each other where they used to attract.

    There is no hope for an armistice here. Our tongues launch missiles on a daily basis. Our arsenals overfloweth.

    The knob turns. A crack appears.


    I stare into her eyes, at once familiar and foreign.

    “Can we talk?”


  21. Frozen
    142 words

    After a moment’s hesitation, I push open the cold metal door—and am assaulted.
    Lights flash, illuminating the movements of the creatures circling before me.
    Loud music envelops me, the beat resounding in my bones.
    Heartbeat accelerating, I step into the chaos—and become one with it.
    Assassin, Skeleton
    Leopard, Goddess
    Lashed by sound and color, I scan the gyrating mass swirling around me—and am lost.
    Ogre, Flapper
    Witch, Monk
    Sidestepping a whirling werewolf, I finally spot a familiar face—and begin to edge over.
    Empress, Soldier
    Vampire, Zombie
    Exhilarated, I tap her on the shoulder. She turns—and freezes.
    Fencer, Barmaid
    Aphrodite, Slut
    I step forward, intending to jump into the vortex—but she doesn’t move.
    Laughing, she looks at me, her face a mask of incredulity and derision.
    Seriously? You came to the dance party as Elsa from Frozen?”


  22. Pandora’s Box
    159 words

    Jones spent the first three minutes of the breach eating a sandwich and tweeting. When he finally noticed the poisonous glow of the warning light, three minutes and forty-one seconds had passed.

    He pushed the alarm to initiate emergency containment protocols. Then he called the head office. “Breach in Sector Eleven.” He scanned his readout. “We’re gonna have to send someone in.”


    At the seven-minute mark, Mikelson, in full hazmat gear, passed through the lone entry to Sector Eleven, a weather-beaten door with rusting streaks.


    Ten minutes post-leak, dazed BeliefGen employees gathered outside Sector Eleven. Some ranted, preaching at imaginary sinners. One meditated like a Buddhist monk, cross-legged. Others circled the perimeter prostrating in the fashion of Hindu pilgrims. Two men faced east, foreheads to the ground.

    “Convert!” screamed a preacher at a prostrator. “My God is the one God!”


    Mikelson froze inside the Sector. The box containing the mind virus prototypes stood wide open.


  23. Title: Forsaken
    Words: 160

    I remember the door. It looked rusted but it smelled more putrid, like the smell of a festering wound.

    I don’t remember opening the door. Just that the smell got worse, like burning bodies in the crematorium. Or an infested meat house.

    In our line of work, Brother, we deal with the dying, we know the smell s. But this was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. You asked me why I am forsaking the monkhood vows?

    Inside the darkness I looked for the sick and dying, the bodies that could’ve caused the rancidness. But there was nothing. No bodies or bones. No blankets or medical equipment. No animals or fecal matter. There was no sign that life had ever been there. And without life, how could there possibly be death?

    Death cannot exist without Life, but has found a way. Death made a deal with the Devil and even a pact between Life and God will not win this war.


  24. Warning
    John Mark Miller – 160 words

    The Peacekeepers arrived en masse, surrounding the dilapidated warehouse with an overwhelming show of force. Sixty stun rifles for a handful of rebels seemed a bit excessive, but this was how the Conformist Party had stamped all opponents from existence. Efficient. Ruthless.

    They snickered at the obsolete Caution Sign posted on the ancient door. Radiation bombing had reduced Earth to a wasteland – devoid of all plant life, and all dissenters. No one came to Earth without protective gear anymore.

    They smashed the door and flooded inside, rifles ready. But instead of angry rebels, they found a single man dressed in the frock of a medieval monk. He sat copying a sacred text by hand, since all electronics were monitored.

    “Conform or die!” a Peacekeeper shouted.

    The man sighed, placing his hand on the holy book before him. “When will you people learn to heed written warnings?”

    Seconds later, the galaxies watched as the warehouse was reduced to a mushroom cloud.


  25. Radioactive Monk – 149 words
    Rachel Delane

    Gabriel hugged the sharp corners of the wall. The aged wood’s rough texture grabbing at his cloak trying to persuade him not to go. Seeing the path ahead was clear, he wrestled free and bolted for the door.

    He swallowed hard as his trembling hand bushed passed the biohazard warning sign. It was too late to go back now.

    “Quickly Gabriel.” Another robbed figure beckoned him towards a shimmering blue wave of energy floating in the room. “You know your mission. Go back and warn them.”

    “Are we sure this won’t change things for the worse,” Gabriel said.

    “There is no worse. The world is lost.” He grabbed Gabriel pushing him forward. “God speed brother.”

    As Gabriel inched towards the blue ball of light, he thumbed over his prayer beads, closed his eyes, and let himself go.

    The light snapped shut leaving a solitary cloaked figure in the room.


  26. Resurrection
    144 words

    The sign swung wildly from the one chain that still anchored it to the condemned inn. The portrait of The Monk was faded now but his gaze remained forbidding. I ignored him and made my way toward an outbuilding at the back of the car park where David’s sign still glowed in the darkness.

    Lightning forked across the sky, illuminating the inn’s broken body, a mere skeleton now where once there had been so much life. I licked my lips at the memory. So much life and I had gorged myself on it with abandon.

    I opened the door, expecting to find David’s body but it was gone, the tomb I had created, empty. I recalled his last words, his threat of revenge. The air shifted.
    “I am the Resurrection,” whispered a voice I thought never to hear again. “And I have been waiting.”


  27. Memento Mori

    The monk-like caretaker of the captured souls met Gerhardt at the door.

    “The procedure worked. We got to her deathbed just in time,” he grinned.

    Gerhardt didn’t dare look at the photos they passed in the corridors. Whispers cluttered the air.

    “She’s not in pain?”

    “Not at all. Souls are extremely resilient,” the monk said. The whispers became louder until individual voices could be heard. “They wake up when people walk past. It takes a while for the eyes to adjust, you might say. Your… doctor gave you only a few months?”

    Gerhardt felt a ghost walk over his grave as dozens of eyes turned to watch him. “Indeed. And then I will no longer require your services.”

    “Here we go.”

    Gerhardt stared at the photo of his wife. Her face moved slightly. “Gerhardt?” she whispered.

    “When you die, we destroy the photo and the soul is freed immediately.”

    Gerhardt smiled. “And then we will go to heaven together.”

    Words : 160


  28. E Pluribus Non

    They would have called me an acolyte of the god of the dead, if there were any gods. Some still prayed, gathering on dirt floors in tin shacks, asking favors of beings who, if they even once existed, had moved on. I didn’t recite verses or sing hymns as I went about my work, though I wore the vestments of one who would. It kept the others away.

    At first, I buried them because I was worried about diseases, but the bodies were now mostly mummified. I kept going because it was something to do. There wasn’t anything special about being above ground or below, and when it was my turn, I’d probably lay wherever I’d fallen until nature decided I was to be no more.

    I’d sworn no vows of chastity, but my work kept me alone. The living have always feared the dead, moreso now that there were so many. Not me. At least the dead were quiet.

    160 words


  29. The Truth Is In There
    150 words

    The name was their problem.

    Every day The Monastery of Ultimate Truth received a procession of pilgrims, some seeking the Meaning of Life, some demanding next week’s Lottery numbers, some asking are Coldplay crap or what.

    This left the Monks with little time for Gregorian chant, polishing their tonsures or adjusting the hem-length of their robes to that season’s fashion, those little things that distinguish a cloistered life from mere idleness.

    Then Brother Buckfast suggested a sign that he had seen on the door of his teenage nephew’s bedroom.

    The sign did not say that they harboured nuclear waste, because that would be untrue. It did say that they lived in a controlled area, which was true on every possible level. How people interpreted the pretty symbol above that was up to them.

    There is Ultimate Truth, and then there is Lack of Ultimate Untruth. Sometimes the latter is better.


  30. Meltdown
    150 words

    Once, all this was farmland. The sky goes red, the ground glows at night.

    After the accident, monks in biohazard suits tend the new crops, plants that feed on radioactive elements, cleaning the soil that once grew corn and beans. It will take years to grow such things again. Now, sunflowers follow the sun.

    No one else lives here, now. Only the few inhabitants of this monastery. We live amid the fires of hell, the abbot says.

    We grow our own food hydroponically, tanks of zucchini and beans. We pray for healing. We prepare for a harvest we will not live to see.

    Meanwhile, the animals have become strange. Fish that cannot swim with fipper-like hands. Birds that speak. There was a white colt born with six legs and vestigial wings. A monster, a miracle?

    No one goes near the reactor. We can all read the language on the doors.


  31. Unknown

    I am contained in words.
    I do not remember my true moment of creation. Of becoming.
    I have only known that I am Brother Jospehus and Brother Josephus keeps a record of the world.
    Day after day, year after year, century after century I keep an even pace with the world outside.
    There are others, those who build another building around the one I have filled, the one that has grown antiquated. They are brothers too of one fashion or another. I do not know them.
    I write of the triumphs of man. I write of the failures of man.
    If I am meant to be keeping a tally of one or another I have never known.
    I am an ageless, perpetual record keeper, writing on wall after wall.
    There are patterns. There are atrocities that blend together. There are acts of kindness that shine.
    But if I were to ever sleep I would find tears upon my cheeks.

    159 words



    Brian S Creek
    159 words
    @Brian S Creek

    Dear diary,

    Tonight was the best M.O.N.K meeting yet. Not only did legendary serial killer Peter ‘Pitchfork’ Morrell visit and give a great talk on body disposal but Zoe Zennith turned up again.

    I spent the whole meeting building up the courage to walk over to her. Funny how I can cut a man’s heart out without blinking but asking for Zoe’s number had my palms sweaty and my throat dry.
    She’s so amazing and she listens to me. She’s interested in hearing about my kills instead of just bragging about hers.

    I think she might like me too. After the meeting, as we were leaving the abandoned warehouse, she asked if maybe I’d like to head up to the lake and see if there were any high school kids that were begging to be dispatched

    I know it might be moving too fast but I think she might just be the one.

    Can’t wait to see her again.


  33. The Burden
    @geofflepard 149 words

    Robert Oppenheimer’s ghost drifted to the door. If he could, he would have prevented the men entering. The sign wouldn’t stop their foolhardiness. He shouted noiselessly; there was the briefest of hesitations, as if some part of his warning had snagged somewhere, before they were obliterated. The heat was so intense it vaporised the concrete and left the rescue workers confused as to how many died.
    Oppenheimer shed a memory of a tear. Why, God? Why must I bear witness to every nuclear disaster? All that pitiless horror, the grieving and the evaporation of hope. His fateful words, at Los Alamos, had been thrown back at him: ‘I am become death; the destroyer of worlds.’
    He watched each time: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. He knew what was still to come: the monks of Perugia, the Shenzen Cataclysm.
    ‘Why, he asked again?’
    And the void howled its silence back.’


  34. “The Mission”
    by Michael Seese
    159 words

    Houston, this is Chambers. I’ve reached the satellite, and will begin repairs. The door’s jammed. I’m trying the wrench. Got it. Oh my God! The reactor’s lost its coolant! The thing’s glowing! I’ve got to fix the leak and switch to the backup. It’s so hot, my face is burning …

    The chase was on! Super spy 009 raced through the streets of Paris, pursuing the assassin called “The Monk.” He’d been warned to not look into the eyes of the killer, who supposedly had supernatural powers that could destroy a human brain. “Poppycock,” he snorted. Rounding a corner, 009 came face to face with The Monk. His eyes began glowing. 009 felt a stabbing in his skull …

    “Ready, Sammy?”

    “Yes, Doctor.”

    “Your scans look good. This should be your last treatment,” Dr. Wilkinson said, his brave face fighting to subdue the grimace.


    But nine-year-old Sammy Chambers knew the truth. This was to be his final mission.


  35. Mission of Faith

    There isn’t much time. You feel it. You jump bodies before you; some already behind. The ground is littered, as you scramble, losing purchase. It is through the small doorway. Caution all who enter. By doing, you may die. By not doing, you will die.

    Your fingers are shifting as you move – pushing – pulling – forwards – backwards – thrusting obstacles away. You are accessing hidden strength; knowing it won’t last – that it drains your energy levels. You hope to see the door designated “authorised personnel”. You need to see it soon.

    You wish you’d purchased maps but you had to choose between two options. You went for the other and hope it counts. A wrong choice means you lose your life. You must not fail your mission.

    Now you see it; the hooded habits already assembled in front. First, defeat them to reach the missile silo. Then you’ll open the door to the final level to disarm the reactor.

    (160 words)



  36. The Radiation Cathedral
    by A J Walker

    Outside the yellow leaves of autumn matched Alfred’s radiation suit. He took off the uncomfortable uniform, placing it as neatly as possible on the sideboard, ready for when he left the warehouse. His daily lie to the world.

    Beware Radiation! Invisible – you better believe it – radiation. Protect yourself, bury it, hide it, forget it. Hide it.

    He put up his loose hood and was a monk again. His required lie forgotten.
    As he walked into the cavernous room and stood beneath the relic he was struck with awe; as every day.

    The relic was the most beautiful truth for the world. But humanity was not ready and until that day the Monks of Earthly Fire tended and prayed to the relic. Albert prayed that the world would be ready to receive it soon; to handle the truth.

    Each night though, as he ritually watched the news, he became increasingly aware The Day would never come. Nightly he cried.

    160 words)


  37. @stellakateT
    158 words

    Blind Faith

    When I was young I’d skip to Mass but stopped when Brother Martin gave me the evil eye. Now I drag myself, leaning on the strong shoulder of Brother John. He’s like I was when I first entered this closed brotherhood, full of hope and joy de vive. I truly believed in the afterlife and the teachings of the Past Masters. We learnt all we could about life’s mysteries and thought we were invincible until called to Glory.

    My skin is peeling in thick scaly sheets, hot and itchy. I wake in the morning nauseous, vomiting in the bucket near my cot. I go to sleep at night begging not to wake. But my Master doesn’t want me yet. He torments me with vivid dreams of when I was instructed by Brother Martin to venture beyond the door and what I saw. I tell Brother John never to forget the Master gave us free will. Wish I’d remembered.


  38. Awakening To Emptiness

    Tripitaka watered his dragon steed, left Pigsy and the ogre to argue over the table scraps and took himself into the mountains to pray. He had not gone a long way when he came upon a door. He did not understand the words inscribed thereon, but the meaning was still clear; the tripartite star could only signify the horns and beard of an Oni, and the latest of his 81 trials.

    Sighing wearily, Tripitaka drew his sword and pushed open the door, to see what the Buddha had in store for him this time.

    He was surprised to find only a glass case, and within, a curiously glowing rock, but without thought or hesitation, he swung, shattering glass and cleaving stone.

    A blinding light filled the cave and he understood finally what horror he had unleashed upon the world. He groped for the words of the Mantra of Binding, but it was too late;

    The nature of Monkey was irrepressible.

    160 words


  39. Josh Bertetta
    Matthew 10:34
    160 Words

    “It was your idea remember.”

    “I know. And it seemed like a good idea at first, but…”

    “Tit for tat. They wanted asylum and we gave it to them. Now they’re gonna return the favor.”

    “But the way we went about it. We said we wanted to help them and essentially poisoned them for three years without their knowledge while they prayed and meditated. Doesn’t it seem a little barbaric?”

    “Barbaric! Need I remind you what those camel jockeys did to our country? Payback’s a bitch. We’ll show them the all mighty power of their God from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus to Beirut and everywhere in between. They use children to do their bidding for Christ’s sake. So what if we use monks from Tibet? What do they care anyway? You’ve seen the pictures of them setting themselves on fire. It’s good for them. Good karma. All the suicide bombers ain’t shit when you’ve got two dozen suicide nuclear bombers.”


  40. Halloween

    The icy breath of the dead rolled in, drifting chill from the ocean. It swirled around the steaming pipes and the concrete of the abandoned building. The grey monk, sworn against evil, walked before the fog silently reciting the Roman chant, ignoring the radiation signage.

    They loved this last night of October, the one night in the year when belief in them – the ghouls and ghosts and goblins – actually sloshed around the world as the foolish played. Watched by grinning pumpkins, real witches cackled among the children partying in the streets, while zombies dragged their chains. Devouring the belief, they renewed their strength for another year.

    Only the men of God stand between.

    Features hidden by his hood, the monk stepped through the door of the power station back out into the fog, rejuvenated, ready for another year of haunting… glowing.

    @CliveNewnham – 143 words



    FBI: FILE #AG55686ED


    Subjects: Walter Tallahassee (deceased), William Tallahassee (deceased)


    Ye got me in the frame Billy-Bob?


    Yessir, we’re rollin.


    Right. Welcome to our vlog Preppin Like Rasputin: Survivin Nuclear Holocaust on a Budget … Billy-Bob am I muffled?




    Okey-dokey. Well anyway this here vial is my fiftieth and final dose of liquid uranium. Admittedly I would have preferred to have kept ma hair and beard …


    And your teeth pops?


    And ma teeth … anyway one last sip and we reckon I will be immune to radiation. Come the big one I’m living like a king.


    (Inaudible muttering)


    So here goes … (SLURPING SOUNDS).

    Okey-dokey, here in this box is some military doohickey. Got it from Ray’s Autos. Go visit Ray, good fella, nice reliable cars. Now I’ll just open … wow … Billy-bob what does this button do?


    159 words


  42. The Morning After

    Doc clutched his head. Fermenting apple sauce had seemed like a great idea, but the shrieking headache told him he’d had better, like hiding in the nuclear plant when everything collapsed. It had been the most dangerous place on Earth, but now it was probably the safest.

    Not that it mattered…

    He looked at the radio, admonishing him silently. Who cared if he survived, after what he’d said? He wondered if he’d hear from her ever again, why he’d been so damned stupid, stating the obvious; might as well have told her that the Earth was round. If he was going to blow his one chance, he should at least have asked how she felt.

    But he hadn’t, and now he’d never know.

    The radio bleeped, and he knew that it was Red. He ought to ignore it, to behave, but he lifted the receiver anyway; he might live like a monk, but he didn’t have to think like one…

    160 words


  43. Desolation
    159 words

    Brother Alexander Wormwood made his way through the formless gray landscape. A dry wind bit through him like the breath of a ghost. He grasped his cloak tighter around himself and continued on.

    Alexander was the last of his order, a once powerful circle of monks, now broken. After the death of Brother Lionel the previous year, Alexander had been forced to singlehandedly complete the work of generations. He had to find the time sphere and destroy it before the earth withered away. One by one the wasting had befallen his brethren until all but he had perished. Using the accumulated knowledge of decades, Alexander had pinpointed the sphere’s location and had journeyed there.

    Now, nothing stood between him and his goal except a thin metal wall. Alexander pushed open the moldering, rust-coated door. It creaked like the wail of some lonely spirit. A small cascade of dust descended from the vaulted ceiling. It was time to finish this.

    by Ian Phillips
    Age 13


  44. Quantus tremor est futurus
    (Judge’s entry. Just for fun!)

    Flames flickered on the horizon; ashes flew like snow in a blizzard. Within the concrete walls of the monastery, Dom Exos folded four of his tentacles in prayer. “Miserere mei, Deus.”

    Nearby, Teuthida peered through the barred window, weeping inky tears. A flurry of demon ash, unleashed by terrible new weapons, threatened to bury Sepiidan civilization. “If we receive His mercy,” she said as a sudden gust blew debris through the window, “it will not be in this life.”

    The Monastic Order of the Seraphim had long studied this fundamental paradox. From the ruins of the Seraphim, the Sepiidan had recovered ancient writings that now guided their beliefs — and terrifying technologies that had led them, by all appearances, to complete destruction.

    “If such is God’s plan,” Exos said laconically, bowing his bulbous head and genuflecting on six tentacles to resume prayer.

    “That Savior from the Seraphim’s holy writings died for their sins,” reminded Teuthida. “Not ours.”


  45. @colin_d_smith
    159 words

    “Are you sure about this?” said Kate, gripping Luther’s hand. “What about the radiation?”

    “That sign’s just to keep people out.”

    “How do you know?”

    Luther shifted his feet and let his gaze wander to the sun-crusted desert horizon.


    “The Monk,” he said with a sigh.

    “You mean, I blew off the movies with Becka to follow some wack-job blogger’s theory?” Kate threw his hand and turned to leave.

    “No, it’s for real. I’ll show you!”

    “You go on,” she said. “I’ll wait in the car.”

    Luther watched her stomp to his Dad’s red pickup.

    The idea of aliens hiding in an old wooden shack sounded stupid. But The Monk used to live in the monastery across the valley. He saw things.

    Luther heard the sound of the car radio blaring and sighed. Only one way to settle this. He opened the shack door.

    Kate never saw the white flash. Never heard the scream. Never saw Luther again.



    The aging lama led the young postulant to the edge of Purgatory. There, posted in runes made comprehensible by eons of mandatory chants, stood an ancient message inscribed in the titanium-laced concrete.

    “In truth, Lama, although I learned the meaning of the runes in childhood, how did Purgatory come to be?”

    “Once, son, Purgatory emanated from the minds of men to strike fear in uneducated multitudes. We forced the wrongdoing of the world into several repositories around the earth. We, the lamas, now utilize Purgatory’s presence to rid the world of new evil. For the half-life of old evil is millions of years.”

    “Then, Lama, in my reasoning the Church acts as police, judge and executioner. Is that not so?”

    “In a manner, son, we seek the same salvation, but of live souls, rather than to exist among chaos. We adhere strictly to Jeremiah 6:14, “Peace, peace.” Our tribulations are managed through the threat and use of Purgatory’s blessed radiation.”

    WC = 160 exclusive of title


  47. Doors. by Mark Driskill
    “Brother James moved reverently to the warehouse door. It had been fifteen years since he had escaped this place. Flattening his hand against the door’s rough surface, he tried not to lose control. The screams, the beatings, the maniacal laughter, banged on his memory demanding release. The late father Andrew, had taken the wounded young man in after his rescue, and introduced him to monastic life. Now, that the kind priest was gone, James felt alone with only the medallion, a gift from Andrew, to comfort him. Opening the door slowly, he choked on the dead stench. Two doors flew open simultaneously. The door before him and the door within, both calling for release. He spent the whole afternoon walking around and remembering. He held onto the medallion, his only evidence of goodness in the world. At dusk he quietly walked out, leaving both doors open. Finally at peace, he walked reverently away.”


  48. Doors alternative. by Mark Driskill
    “Brother James moved reverently to the warehouse door. It had been fifteen years since he had left this place. Flattening his hand against the door’s rough surface, he tried not to lose control. The screams, the beatings, the maniacal laughter, banged on his memory demanding release. The late father Andrew, had taken the troubled young man in after his rescue, and introduced him to monastic life. Now, that the kind priest was gone, James felt alone with only the medallion, a gift from Andrew, to comfort him. Opening the door slowly, he choked on the dead stench. Two doors flew open simultaneously. The door before him and the door within, both calling for release. He spent the whole afternoon walking around and remembering. Then at dusk the officers, came and said, “Okay, you’ve had enough time.” They put the cuffs and leg irons back on. With a sick smile he walked reverently away.”


  49. Brother Oswald’s Orders

    Brother Oswald dragged the heavy, scarred box down the vestry to the catacombs. Outside, God evidenced His approval, His intent clear in each flash of lightening, His voice resonant in each crashing peal of thunder. 

    Oswald recalled the meticulous instruction of old Father D’Alcosu, on the visceral necessity of transporting the humming cask down these sandstone steps. To take the confessional to be emptied, to safely store the contents and erase it’s deeply marked surface.

    The exclusion sign denoted the entrance to the facility. Electric blue steam billowed from the interface. Only Oswald witnessed the Transferal of Confessionals, as did those Holy Brethren before him, all only answerable to the Bishop, or to God and each completing these Daily Orders, alone. The prayers he whispered were not only for those confessions made by daily penitents but for the security of the facility, never to release those nightmares on the world


  50. Final Communications of Lab 804 re: Project Monk
    (156 words)

    10.01.2025: Subject procured, phase one of project Monk commencing. Subject A, 29 year old healthy male, is sedated and confined, serum administered intravenously. Subject appears to experience adverse emotional reaction. Transcript as follows:

    Oh god please make it stop! Somebody help me! Please! Mommy make them stop!


    10.16.2025: Following 30th administration of serum, Subject A convulses. Stabilized after 28.3 seconds. Subject has lost ability to produce speech. Severe degradation of melanin noted in skin, eyes, and hair samples.


    10.20.2025: Subject A experiencing drastic drop in iron levels. Adjustments to nutritional supplementation ineffective. Heart rate and body temperature in decline.


    10.29.2025: Despite countermeasures, Subject A has ceased all vital functioning.


    10.21.2025: 48 hours post-mortem, Subject A has regained muscle and partial brain functioning. Muscle activity far exceeds normal range. Unable to restrain Subject A. All personnel request immediate extraction.


    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden


  51. All Hallows Eve

    The face in the mirror smiled and told me to wait, but I slipped through. I needed to find the one who wore my face.
    I fell into the dusty street and saw a monk and a witch stumbling along, then bump up against the heavy wall.
    ‘Dressed up for Halloween are we?’ Asked the uniformed man who appeared before them.
    ‘I’m Rasputin, and this is Morgana,’ the monk slurred, ‘and you are?’
    ‘I’m Count Dracula, dressed up as a security guard.’
    ‘Where’s your cloak?’ The witch giggled uncontrollably.
    ‘Come on. Move away. This is a dangerous place.’
    ‘But we’re already dead. We’re the ghosts who roam the streets on All Hallows Eve,’ the monk garbled.
    ‘Indeed you are.’ The guard sentenced.
    Then he saw me and smiled, ‘I’m glad you came back.’
    I nodded and felt my hungry fangs sink into their flesh.
    I had found the one who wore my face.

    152 words


  52. Dreaming of Peace
    160 words

    Everything matched the dream he’d been having for the past 3 months: the wooden slats concealing the corrugated steel sides of the warehouse, the vertical rust lines on the white door, and the radioactive sign hanging off-center.

    In the dream he would take an immediate left after entering. He’d then enter the door under the water damaged ceiling panel. The room contained a Tibetan monk that gave some speech about world peace and ended by saying, “Peace can only be reached through me.” He’d then touch the monk’s forehead and everything would disappear in a flash of white light. That always woke him.

    Now, curiosity led him into the building and toward the door. Everything matched the dream perfectly except the monk. Instead of the monk, there was an open briefcase with a red button dead center. Two keys were inserted and turned to ‘activate’, and the launch code flashed: M0Nk5s600078C. Seeing this, he knew what he had to do.


  53. Invisible snow
    159 words

    Shiro stared at Yuki’s picture and remembered her cheeks, rosy from the frigid air. She was a cherry blossom caught in the breeze.

    That was how he wanted to remember her, but the monk’s chanting reminded him of the loudspeakers meant to bring order during the evacuation. They merely provided background noise, radiation, as they fled, Yuki’s cheeks wet with tears as they left their entire life behind.

    Newspapers called the fallout “invisible snow,” but it was a blizzard. It buried her in an avalanche. Yuki’s final act was the only escape she saw, an attempt at finding warmth.

    The sickly sweet aroma of incense brought images of burning flowers to Shiro’s mind. Quietly, he turned away from Yuki’s photograph on the altar and exited the temple.

    His heart smoldered beneath the surface, threatening to crack the ice created by their nuclear winter. A snowflake landed on Shiro’s cheek and melted into an unconscious tear. He didn’t feel it.


  54. Schroedinger’s Deity

    After weeks on unforgiving slopes, the monk crested the ridge. His saffron and crimson robes caught the sunrise in their folds.

    If the rustic structure with its bleached planks surprised him, his expression didn’t ripple. Most seekers expect a temple.

    “Within is the lord you seek,” a disembodied voice told him, as it tells all of them.

    His hand hesitated above the latch, strayed instead to the red and yellow sign, its colors matching his robes. He dropped his hand. Most seekers can hardly wait to meet their makers.

    “My Lord Ganesh,” he intoned the chill air. He retreated to a blasted pine to ponder his next step.

    God was of two natures: a golden youth and an elephant. If I open that door, you’ll be one or the other. If I don’t, you’ll forever be both.

    “I think,” he said to the sunrise, “in your full glory, you shall remain both.”

    The seeker turned his next step downward.

    159 words


  55. Legend of Iron Pass

    Watch the ridge, you might see the leper. He’s roamed the Iron Pass for years searching for his daughter. Look for the greenish glow.

    Not ectoplasm, silly. This isn’t a ghost story. His amulet glows.

    He used to be a monk. He pilgrimed the Silk Road with his daughter dressed as an acolyte. (Brigands tend to leave two men alone.) Twas a night much like this one, when the Siberian wind scrapes its way south and storm clouds pile up against the peaks.

    In the frost, a portal crinkled open and consumed the girl. Most think she fell in the gorge, but that wouldn’t explain the amulet. He carved it from a weird stone left behind. Before his skin started sloughing, he’d come around demanding if we recognized the symbol.

    They say some nights she appears, too, in a lightning flash, still looking like an acolyte.

    I just tell them that whatever they’ve seen, there are no ghosts around here.

    160 words


  56. Adelgunde
    157 words

    The radiation warning sign hung on the rusted, metal door of a building, the foundation of which was rotted to within an inch of its life.

    Adelgunde rolled his eyes. They were getting sloppy.

    “Knock, knock, ladies!” he said, kicking in the door.

    Creatures hissed at the blinding sunlight, then scurried into the shadows. They were neither man nor beast but something in between. “Monk…” their leader wheezed, his lips twisting into a demonic smile as he stepped forward. “You’re just in time for dinner.”

    “Sorry to disappoint,” Aldegunde said, pulling a small, metal ball from his waistband pouch. “But I’m not that kind of girl.”

    He slammed the grenade onto the ground; a circle of light burst forth, and the creatures vaporized into nothingness. He dusted off his pants and pulled the hood over his head, squinting against the light as he stepped outside.

    Ten hives down, three more to go. Then, the real work begins.


  57. Evan Montegarde
    160 words
    Brother Theudoricus’ Love of Movies

    “Brother Theudoricus, you have certainly made a mess of things.”

    “I apologize Bishop Eutopius,” the diminutive, robed man smiled weakly, “I screwed up, I admit it. The fire thing was bad, metallurgy, big mistake and gunpowder, oh my, I still wonder why and….”

    Eutopius cut him off, “and giving them nuclear fission was beyond inexcusable.”

    “I know,” Theudoricus barely muttered bowing his head.

    “You do understand that they will fairly quickly destroy their planet as they can do nothing but fight among themselves.”

    “I do have a plan sir,” the smaller monk blurted out.

    “Enlighten me,” Eutopius replied.

    “I have asked the Arrgh to send their massive scrap Mother Ships to their atmosphere; the entire planet below will permanently unite to nuke the Arrgh vessels which need demolishing anyway.

    Bishop Eutopius nodded, “OK, but this is your last chance as their caretaker.”

    Theudoricus smiled broadly while unobtrusively sliding the Blueray disc of Independence Day under the folds of his robes.


  58. Think I missed the deadline by some five minutes, but I had to enter as I have been away from the contest for too long.

    History Repeating
    205 Words

    “Omigosh, is that you?”
    She slapped the photo down in front of me and tapped a lacquered nail on a grinning mug peeping out from a mop of curly, black hair.
    “Yeah,” I said, trying, unsuccessfully, to suppress a feeling of longing as I gazed at those raven tresses.
    “You must miss that hair,” she observed, reaching over to rub my bald head. I stopped her, as I always did, by entwining my fingers with hers. She smiled, as she always did, her eyes meeting mine with the same question in them, “when will you let me in?”
    “You were some kind of headbanger, eh? I mean, before…”
    “Before the monastery, yeah. I guess I was.” I picked up the photo and tossed it back into the shoebox.
    “That picture was from college.”
    “I didn’t know you’d been to college.”
    “I dropped out.”
    There it was, the question I feared she’d ask – the one I knew I’d someday have to answer.
    “The woman I loved moved 600 miles away from campus,” I said. “I followed her.”
    In the quiet of the moment that followed I saw the realization come into her eyes.
    “That story sounds very familiar,” she finally said.
    “Yeah,” I said, “I knew you’d think so.”


  59. This is my first time doing this. I am struck by the creative genius of all of you. I think it’s so cool how one picture can be taken in so many different ways. Kudos to all of you for great writing.


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