Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 48

WELCOME back to Flash! Friday! It’s always such a pleasure seeing you, week after week, turn up to share your brilliant talents. And watch you fight tooth and talon for the trophy, of course, loveyoumeanit. But as I’ve said often: how can a squabbling dragon badge compete with the rich encouragement and feedback you offer each other every Friday? We are pushing each other to be better writers, better readers, better critiquers. It’s absolutely glorious. Thank you for all you contribute to this community! Speaking of which:    

DEADLINE’S COMING: Monday’s the deadline to join the Flash! Friday family as one of the rotating judges. Please consider giving judging a go! Your dragony eye is both loved and needed. Details here.

Speaking of deadlines, death, and treasure: well, if Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid don’t come to mind hearin’ all that, let me correct that for ya. On November 7, 1908, both were killed (we think) in a final shootout in San Vicente, Bolivia. A more infamous pair of train robbers, it’s hard to imagine. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (yes, that Pinkerton), Butch and his friends fled to Argentina and then Bolivia, where their notoriety came to an abrupt and noisy end. Will your stories be as mysterious and noisy?? I’ll be doing fancy Ethan Hunt tricks train top (PS. adore you, Jean Reno!!) while giddily watching your imaginations catch fire.  


As we wind down Year Two, we’ve two more goodbyes to suffer (did I mention we have super! cool!!!! guest judges to fill the spaces between Year Two and Flashversary???). Today’s farewell belongs to judge Phil Coltrane. You ROCK, Phil. What a blast it’s been having you on the team! To refresh your memories, Phil loves stories with vivid images, he’s fond of scifi, and he goes crazy for stories that veer off in totally unexpected directions. Read more about what he 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 body armor and get crackin’! 

* 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 the name Longabaugh”):



***Today’s Prompt:


Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wail, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

Chef at the Trans-Siberian rail wall, between Moscow and Khabarovsk. CC 2.0 photo by Leidolv Magelssen.

432 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 48

  1. The New Day
    By JM6, 160 words, @JMnumber6

    Fred looked out at the tracks disappearing into the horizon, the sun’s first rays giving the rails the appearance of tenuous, insubstantial strings rather than the good steel he knew them to be. He sighed. He’d given up so much to be here.

    His marriage to a wonderful woman who just didn’t understand why.

    His career in the financial world where he wasn’t a wolf on wall street; he was a lion hunting down both bears and bulls at will, causing the wolves to cower behind their balance sheets.

    His so-called friends who would be just getting home after a hard night of drinking. He wondered if any of them even remembered his name.

    “Fred!” the assistant chef called from inside the train. “The oven is ready!”

    Fred sighed in pleasure. Sometimes, you have to give up everything in order to find your treasure. He returned inside to prepare the passengers’ breakfasts and wait for the next journey to begin.


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 153

    Angry Waffles

    You poke at the waffles, the tines of your fork spearing a liquid-filled square. The angry, red glisten of strawberry syrup shivers to the thunder of the train.

    No one had warned you of the pain, the God-awful tearing of the soul as the touch of a hand turns into a glance through a window, and then mile piles on mile until a world lies between your angry waffles and the shared wine last night.

    It’s ironic, isn’t it, that you can walk a parallel line for so long with another person, never really moving closer, never veering away —

    Until one day, the path ends, and you drift one way, and she floats another, and that track that you had trod lies splintered in your wake.

    Now the only treasure you hold is the red syrup that soaks the squares and sponges the bread so you choke on it as it fills your mouth.


  3. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 157


    My mama was a simple woman who loved simple things. The way she said things sometimes made you sit up, take notice, ’cause she never said things just like anyone else.

    Once, at the beach, she laid a clam shell in my palm, closing my fingers around it. Her warm hand held mine shut while her eyes smiled at me.

    “The treasure’s what’s inside,” she said, and I knew she wasn’t talkin’ about the shell.

    See, the way she figured it, we all got stations we gotta stop at in this life. We’re all born — can’t help that one — we all die. Usually, we find someone we can love along the way.

    Mama’d watch me out of those careworn, faded eyes, eyes that see right through me. She’d brush her pinky finger across the inside of my arm, ’cause that’s what she does.

    “While you’re speedin’ that track, Sugar,” she’d say, “don’t forget to enjoy the ride.”


  4. Waiting For Trains (155 Words)

    We spend our lives waiting. For phone calls, texts, messages. For those we have loved and lost, for those we wish to love. Minutes, hours, days. We spend seven years lying awake at night, thinking, wishing. We try to hold the smoke of our memories. Every day we wait an average of forty-five minutes to an hour while time slips through our fingers.

    As for me, to look back is to remember the scent of jasmine and violet, the brush of a hand against my cheek, breath in perfect rhythm with my own. A last chance to live a life fulfilled. To look back is to know the treasure I have lost irrevocably.

    Over the course of my life I can expect to spend 653 hours waiting for trains. I shall carry a book. Learn a new language. I can do no more but be patient.

    I cannot look back.


  5. The Recurring Dream
    (157 words)

    Riya woke up with a sweat. It was the same dream again. A running train with a man standing at the door. Why was it so scary every time? She had never seen the man and not even seen this train. But, it still felt familiar.

    Riya went to the Mystic again and told him about the dream. She never trusted these Mystics. But she was tired of the dream and hoped to make sense of it.

    The Mystic gave her a potion and hypnotized her. Soon, she will talk, thought the Mystic.

    Riya began mumbling about the train journey she had taken long ago, in another lifetime, a different country. She was in love with the man on the train. Standing at the train door, and looking at the passing scenes, he gently pushed her off the train. Horrified and in pain, not understanding, she looked back at the man on the train before she died.


  6. “Anonymous Train” (158 words)
    If trains were so romantic, why was the scenery outside the window always so bleak? Trains were built on cheap land. The tracks which ran south to north along the eastern U.S. passed through the crappiest sections of every metropolis from Richmond to Boston.

    This time I relished the atmosphere of despair. The night train was abandoned, clacking along unnoticed in the dark. That’s just the way I wanted it: alone and anonymous.
    I’d boarded the train at a small station in a nowhere suburb, paying the conductor with cash. I’d disembark just as quietly at another empty stop. My clothes were simple, nondescript, like my face.

    A car stolen several states away from home would never be traced back to me. A border crossing in Vermont with fake papers would release me from a life of indentured servitude to my treasure-hunting, entitled, filthy rich and controlling wife. She was dead and I was free to start over.


  7. The Soul Train
    154 words
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)

    Welcome to ‘The Soul Train,’ music optional. Pardon, my little joke, it’s become a habit. Leave your treasures behind along with all corporeal cares and worries. Fortunes and debts have no meaning, carry no currency, on this other worldly voyage of discovery. Come, sit yourself down and we’ll whisk you away across lands unseen by mortal eyes. Truly wonders to behold. All whilst cocooned in the extreme of pampered luxury, sampling unimagined delights from the comfort of your very own sinful couchette. There’s no fat worries here, no limits, no remorse, no regrets. There are no guilt trips with this five star travel agency. Indulge your spirit of adventure. Sorry, another little joke. I promise, no more.

    What’s that? Where are we going? Wherever it takes us. Where do you get off? Wherever you want, whenever it stops, whenever that is of course.

    What does it cost? Surely, the clue is in the name.


  8. Seek and You Shall Find

    ‘I’d give all the gold in Bielen Major if these fools would get moving,’ Dan mutters, lighting up. He’s muffled like a swaddled child, shivering.

    ‘If you had it, you wouldn’t be workin’ on no Interplanetary Line,’ I say.

    ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He takes a drag. ‘It’s freezin’, man. Get in here!’ I’m still in my cook’s gear – takes me ages to cool down after a shift – as I lean out. My breath plumes. Up ahead, they’re arguing over the wormhole co-ordinates, and I wonder where we’ll end up, this time. Or when.

    Idly, I turn my head. Platform’s full of disembarking passengers, bowed under baggage, hurrying into this world, whatever it’s called.

    And if she hadn’t glanced back, I might have missed her.

    ‘Hey,’ I say. ‘It’s that girl.’


    ‘Redhead from two stops back. In the Sakh system. Remember?’

    Dan shrugs. ‘So?’

    ‘What’s the going rate for illegal alien intercepts, these days?’ I say, catching his suddenly gleaming eye.

    160 words


  9. @bex_spence
    142 words

    Ward 10:

    The air was hot and humid; sweat spiked on his brow as he looked for the missing patient. Ward 10 rolled through the station, drawling to a slow stop, Mac leaned out the door scouring the landscape for the man who got away.

    It was the latest idea in secure units, the psychiatric train, keep them all moving and don’t stop too long. In the night the screams roared on the tracks, the train pounding through the land. Occasionally stopping at disused and abandoned stations, collecting a new passenger, someone to keep locked away. Ward 10, a prison with another name, the ward of momentum, eternally running away.

    Mac exhaled deeply, the missing patient hadn’t been seen in a while, said he’d gone looking for treasure but the orderlies knew what that meant. Another girl lost, another family’s heart broken.


  10. The Lesson
    (155 words)

    I train.
    He, she or it trains.
    we train.
    they train.

    You. You decide. You send.

    I leave my family behind.
    He, she or it leaves.
    we leave.
    they leave.

    You.You stay. You orate.

    I travel to places you would never go.
    He, she or it travels.
    we travel.
    they travel.

    You. You are guarded. You are diplomatic.

    I fight your battle for their treasures.
    He, she or it fights.
    we fight.
    they fight.

    You. You take. You own.

    I see sights that no one should have to see.
    He, she or it sees.
    we see.
    they see.

    You. You are briefed. You sympathise.

    I cry for the living and the dead.
    He, she or it cries.
    we cry.
    they cry.

    You. You want more and more and more.

    I die
    He, she or it dies.
    we die.

    They die.


  11. Across Russia with Love
    150 words

    As the train pulled away Pasha bounced a rubber ball on the table and watched Moscow slide past. He turned to Tanya.
    “What are you most excited about?” he asked.
    “The bridges. Look, I have them all on an app.”
    Tanya pulled a tablet from the backpack tucked between her feet and turned it on.
    “There’s an app about bridges on the Trans-Siberian?”
    “There is now, Pasha. I’m hoping to add pictures.”
    “How will you know we’re coming to them?”
    Tanya tapped the tablet.
    “GPS co-ordinates trigger an alert. Gives me time to get ready.”
    Pasha stopped bouncing the ball and stared at Tanya with narrowed eyes.
    “All of them?”
    Tanya looked up smiling. Her eyes sparkled like sapphires, strands of blonde hair framed them like filaments of gold. She nodded.
    “What’s the longest I get to sleep?”
    Now Tanya looked a little sheepish.
    “Four hours,” she said.



  12. Jay Dee Archer
    145 words

    A Smile in Vladivostok

    The train stopped at Vladivostok. Andrei smiled. He walked to the door nearest the train’s galley and opened it up. He gazed over Vladivostok Station.

    “What are you waiting for?” asked Boris. “We can get off now.”

    “I’m waiting,” he said.

    Boris raised an eyebrow. “Okay, I’ll leave you to it.”

    Nearly a month. The anticipation grew in his mind as he passed Irkutsk. It would be soon, he thought. This anticipation changed into an ache as the train rolled into Khabarovsk. But now, he looked out of the train at his destination. He smiled. There was no more ache, but the anticipation was still there.

    He watched the passengers disembark and the station staff usher everyone out. Two figures, one smaller, pushed against the flow of the crowd. Andrei’s smile grew.

    “What are you smiling about?” asked Boris.

    “I found my treasure,” he said.


  13. Word Count: 160


    Have you ever been lonely?

    I have.

    I left my parent’s home excited and engaged. My fiancé was a blonde haired, blue eyed Karen. I had all the money I needed to go to Harvard. We picked out an apartment and almost had all the paperwork done.

    Two weeks before we got married, Karen was in a car accident and died. Harvard was harder than I thought and I couldn’t stop thinking about Karen. Oh my Karen. I flunked out by the first semester.

    My parents…I couldn’t go and face them after that. No. Leave the country. I have more chances at finding dragons hiding treasure away from home anyways.

    So I went to Russia. There was no work anywhere. No one wanted to hire an American who couldn’t speak much Russian.

    Fine. Be that way.

    I finally found a job where I didn’t have to talk. A chef on a train.

    Have you ever been lonely?

    I have.


  14. word count: 159


    I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor saps who do nothing but sit and wait. Waiting doesn’t come natural to me. But waiting, it’s what I do. Waiting for Mama to come back home. Waiting for her to get sick. Waiting for her to get better. Waiting for her to leave. Waiting for her to die. I finally got tired of waiting and put a little too much of her crushed up pills in her bottle of Johnny Walker (or whatever her flavor of the day happened to be that morning) and waited one last time.

    “Where’s your treasure, young lady?” Those were the last words I would ever hear slur out of her mouth.

    “I’m not a lady, Mama. Never been one.” I looked one last time at her thin body as it laid there in them dirty sheets. Once her eyes closed and her chest stopped moving, I headed for the train station. Done waiting.


  15. @stellakateT
    160 words

    Always look a gift horse in the mouth

    Hadn’t I just won ‘MasterChef’ so when the BBC said how about fronting a new cooking programme I jumped at the chance? I should have jumped ship as soon as I saw this train. They decked me out in a traditional chef outfit and said “Go cook” Took this photo in some God forsaken place outside Moscow and left me with Ed the sound engineer and Sacha the camera man who translated for us. I know the BBC is having cutbacks but didn’t realise I had to cook for four hundred hungry Siberian train travellers with a limited amount of ingredients. Cabbage, beetroot and potatoes only went so far and it wasn’t cordon bleu!

    When Sacha found the treasure we fell out, nearly coming to blows. I wanted to add it to the Borscht, Ed wanted to drink it and Sacha wanted to sell it. Sacha won in the end. Crate of hundred per cent Vodka paid for tickets home.


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

    Running late

    Ever feel like you’re standing still,
    That life’s the same old run-of-the-mill?
    Then here’s a tip, you need to move,
    Get yourself out of your little groove.

    Some people walk, some people run,
    Each one brings a little fun,
    Others drive at breakneck speed,
    To fulfill a deep instinctual need.

    The daring sail the ocean blue,
    Get back to nature, pure and true,
    The adventurous head into the sky,
    To breath in freedom while they fly.

    Not me though, I am not the same,
    I’ll always choose to ride the train,
    It’s rooted firmly to the ground,
    But filled with energy, life and sound.

    I’ve met some people on the rails,
    So full of stories to regale,
    The lives they’ve lived are full of passion,
    Good food, fine wine and high-end fashion.

    Sometimes they’re lost or running late,
    But I don’t mind, it’s part of fate.
    No other transport can quite measure,
    To my trains full of love and treasure.

    164 words (I’m not eligible this week as I am over the work count but taking out any more words would mess with the pacing, so this one is just for fun!)


  17. Erin McCabe
    160 words

    Prospective Menu

    Slurp, sip, chew, chack.
    Slurp, slip chew, chack.

    Cumulative sounds within the dining car repeated endlessly, echoing the rhythmic motion of the train. The thought of it made Frank nauseous, the sight of it however, only strengthened his resolve.

    The view; framed and blurred, reminded Frank that his Grandfather had made similar journeys, through dust bowl desert and back-water towns. Not as a chef, of course, but as a prospector.
    Although he had died penniless, in a dank hotel, in a nameless town, to Frank he remained legend; a man whose adventures sustained a hard fought love for life, despite the elusive nature of treasure sought.

    The contrast was stark, for Frank, riches were obvious and easily accessible, it was an appreciation of life that remained intangible and obscure.

    A series of bloodcurdling screams erupted from the dining car as patrons suffered violent reactions to their soup.

    Once silence had fallen, Frank emerged.

    It was time to collect his treasure.


  18. A Treasure to Die For
    By: Allison K. García
    156 words

    Now, I never was the best cook but I was a good crook and when I heard those Russians talking about a treasure in the kitchen of the train, I knew what my next job would be.

    I searched day and night, in between slinging potatoes and kielbasa. I knew that kitchen like the back of my hand. Every bowl, every spoon, every spice. Nothing.

    Then one day I heard them again, talking about the treasure. I tried to be casual about it, though my heart pumped faster than the pistons on the train. And that’s when the idiot pulled out a waffle iron. A favorite among the staff.

    Let me just tell you. Those were the angriest waffles I ever made. My grandmother’s famous recipe, I told them. Blueberry with a hint of rat poison and lemon. They never saw it coming.

    I hopped off in Moscow, bags stuffed with the treasures of dead men.


  19. Your Order’s Up – ** Judge’s Entry, just for fun **
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    147 words

    He waffled between hanging on and jumping off.

    He’d been angry, so angry, for so long, it was almost as if he didn’t know how to feel any other way.

    Except numb. Numbness was a relief, actually, far preferable to the roiling emotions that left him unable to function, unable to live among others for any length of time.

    He could end it, here. Step off into anonymity, into obscurity.

    He’d never have to face another screaming protest, another demand for retribution, another order sent back for the third time.

    It had been his secret, all these years: he couldn’t read. He made it up as he went, combining ingredients in whatever way he saw fit, train to train, job to job.

    Only this time, it wasn’t just the people revolting. This time, the food was rising up. That last batch had threatened to kill him. Literally.


  20. Escape to Japan
    158 words

    Kazue’s shoulders ached, the tendons stretched by gravity and the weight of everything she owned. Two carpet bags full. Sergei’s apartment was 3 miles out from the station and her bare feet knew every painful inch of it.

    Steam and smoke.
    The great red beast impatient to chase the rails.

    Kazue hurried her hobble, head down past the forlorn little man leaning out the dining car.
    So white. So clean. No blood stains.
    Would he wonder?
    She was fully clothed, fully packed and yet…no shoes.

    The bags had been packed for months, waiting.
    Her coat had been on the rack, easy to grab.
    Only her shoes were hiding when Sergei hit her with the bottle he’d drained.

    -Sergei, please don’t! Our baby!-

    Fear for her unborn treasure swallowed her. Had she shoved him or did he trip? Backward. Over the balcony. Splat.

    It didn’t matter. She had a ticket out and this time she wouldn’t look back.


  21. Zen for the Killer’s Soul
    156 words

    The tracks lead to a new journey. Arod Tenga knows this train is a one-way trip — life is terminal so this is nothing new. Years of running have prepared him for this day.
    They’ll kill him for sure where he’s going. Years of his guilt and pain swept away, and the Longabaugh family will get their justice.

    Maybe it’ll take some persuasion, which is why a revolver rests against Arod’s hip. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone again, but it’s plausible to ensure he’s gunned down instead of captured and left to rot. Some fates are worse than others.

    Arod knows there’s a better place waiting. He’s heading somewhere without remorse, where past mistakes fade into the forgotten. His heart beats faster and he bounces in anticipation. A burden lifts off his shoulders as he knows he does the right thing.

    This train is a one-way journey. Arod wishes he took it years ago.


  22. Chemise Crispers

    They are coming. I can see them at the other end of the platform. They’re boarding now. It’s a long train so there’s enough time to tell my story. Will you listen?

    Have you ever been so low that you want to end it all? I have. I was on the crag looking down when a man grasped my arm and pulled me back from the edge. He uttered the words I am about to tell you then threw himself off. I watched as he was dashed to sauce on the rocks. What secret is worth dying for you ask? This one:

    Malaria tipsy bum his feely the jesting trace dove her moley wail.

    This secret was my treasure. Many have died to protect it. I’m sorry the burden is now yours. They are here. Run! I’ll lead them to the roof where 25,000 volts await me.

    147 words


  23. Wick-ed

    “Marie, are you hot?

    “Nope.” she never looked up from her magazine.

    “I’m hot; this train’s a sweat box.”

    “That’s a linen suit; you shouldn’t be hot, take off your jacket and tie.”

    “Still hot.”

    “Go get some fresh air,” she was still treasure hunting in her magazine.

    Seeking even a slightest relief, Bruce stripped-off socks and untucked his undershirt. He felt on fire. He hoped it wasn’t malaria from their month in the jungle.

    Rolling-up the cuffs of his pants he saw the beginning of a rash and fever in his ankles.

    A porter paged, “Message for Mr. Bruce”


    Message – “Inscription at treasure translated – those who walk on sacred ground will burn like wicks in a lamp of agony.”

    Dressed in black linen trousers, Marie felt hot as she read the coroners report “… the linen slacks acted as a wick to spread the flame over victim’s entire body.”


  24. Title: Calculations
    Words: 159

    Sarah’s train leaves the station at 5:00pm, traveling east at 80 miles per hour. On a parallel track, Don’s train leaves the station 3 hours later traveling in the same direction at 100 miles per hour. When will Don’s train catch up with Sarah’s?

    Sarah planned all the details. Don negotiated to split the treasure 50/50. Masks on, they robbed the bank worth millions of bond notes. Then Sarah took off and broke the deal.

    Sarah boarded a train at 5:00pm going 80 mph. Don posed as a chef and boarded the 8pm train going 100mph. What time would he catch her? Distance equals speed multiplied by time. 100 x (t-3) = 80t

    In 15 hours Don would be ready. At 8:00am the trains would meet at the Moscow platform. Don stayed in the kitchen doing whatever task assigned, playing into his chef role. And pictured Sarah’s fingers he was slicing instead of vegetables with the sharp serrated knife.


  25. Siberia
    151 words

    ‘She won’t be there, Leon.’

    He does not reply. He takes another handful of flour, scatters it, then pummels the dough. He feels numb, robotic. This has always been the longest route.

    Stepan smirks. The row of ladles swings as the train slows. The knives rattle in their slots. ‘She wasn’t worth it. I told her to her face. I said, “You’re no treasure, sweetheart, I wouldn’t touch you even if you didn’t belong to Leon.”’

    Leon clenches his fingers and his knuckles disappear into the spongy folds. He presses down with the full weight of his slight body. A voice announces Irkutsk station.

    The platform is no busier than usual. Leon waits in the doorway until the whistle blows. Back in the kitchen Stepan sings and sways as he rolls the pirogi. Leon’s gaze flickers from the broad back to the knife rack.

    This has always been the longest route.


  26. Reunited. By Mark Driskill
    “By now they should be starting to panic.” Jeff kinda wished he could be a fly on the wall right now. “I’ll bet Preston is pulling out what little hair he has left. Serves the jerk right.” He snickered. Jeff had been waiting for the right opportunity to get out of the psych ward ever since they brought him in. Finally the moment came. He wiggled his way out through the laundry chute, almost killed himself jumping from the truck, and making a break for the train. Now in a just a few hours he would be rejoined to his sweet Veronica. This time he would convince her of his love. “I think she was just afraid to admit her feelings. I hope she didn’t change her number again.” He stood at the doorway thinking about Veronica, his treasure. “See you soon babe. We’re going to be together forever. One way or another.”
    Wc- 153 without title



    Brian S Creek
    154 words

    Everything had gone to plan.

    It’s so nice to be out of that place. I told them I didn’t belong but they wouldn’t listen.


    But now I was free. It had been tough to stay out of sight as I made my way into the city but I’d managed it and I was close to the end of my adventure. So exciting.

    Hang on a second.

    As I board the train I look up to see the rainbow is still there. This train will follow that beautiful ribbon in the sky and lead me to the pot of gold that I know sits at the end. Soon I will be rich and no one will ever be able to lock me up again.

    Who’s coming? Oh.

    Jasper says I should find a seat and keep my head down. The men from the hospital are on the platform looking for me. Wish me luck.



    Brian S Creek
    154 words

    The train comes to a stop on the outskirts of another desolate town. I stand at the open door of the medical car and wait.

    In the first weeks after those things came we needed armed guards to keep back the tides of survivors begging for our help. We did our best under the circumstances but too many died.

    Now though, after six months of traveling the remains of civilization, I could count the people who met us at each station on just one hand.

    And all because a group of treasure hunters got a little too greedy and dug a little too deep. No one knows what came out of that tomb but it did more damage to the human race then we’d managed to inflict on ourselves since the dawn of time.

    I wonder how long we’ll follow these tracks. I wonder how long until there are no more lives to save?


  29. The map

    Simon Williams

    Alexei spread out the map on the boxcar floor. It looked to be part black ink, part charcoal, with hatchings and smudgings and punctuated arrows. But in the centre, right in the centre of that tattered old parchment, was a blood red cross. He jammed his finger down on it. “This is where we’ll find it, right here!” His face twisted in surprised pain, and he fell back, eyes closed.

    Sasha looked out at the mountains jagging snow upwards to the perfect sky, at the reflected clouds scudding across the crystal lake. Slowly, he screwed the parchment into a ball and threw it out of the door. It was gone.

    That was the story my grandfather told me anyway, about his grandfather Sasha. And so here I am, spending my life on the Khabarovsk line, looking out over the taiga for that tattered piece of parchment that will change my life.


  30. The Bearer of Bad News

    ‘Attention, the train to London St Pancras, due to arrive on platform seven, has a ten minute delay.’


    ‘Attention, the train to London St Pancras will not arrive on platform seven, but on platform six.’


    ‘Attention, the train to London St Pancras, due to arrive on platform six, now has a fifteen minute delay.’


    ‘Attention, I am quitting my job. I am sick and tired of being the bearer of bad news. Don’t shoot the messenger, they say, but people treat me like I personally blew up the electricity fuse box or that it was I who stole the copper cables. Enough! I can’t even enjoy a pint in the pub anymore. “Attention, your pint has a five minute delay.” Very, very funny. So that’s it for me. I wish my employer luck with his treasure hunt for a replacement. Now I’d just like to get out of here as quickly as possible… Shit.’

    154 words


  31. Inheritance
    160 words

    Andrey imagines the railway’s route as an aorta, moving people, like blood, across the continent. Their motion brings change, necessary mixing, progress. The railway, begun during his great-great grandmother’s era, stands as a constant amidst the violent flux of Russian society.

    He finds it fitting that he travels upon it for this mission.

    Andrey pauses in the space between railcars to watch the country pass. He takes out his withered letter.

    My treasure hides on the top floor of the house on Krygina Street.

    Once, this letter had been criminal; his great-great grandmother’s Imperial treasure—A necklace? An idol or artwork?—had represented a prohibited personal inheritance.

    Andrey is the first of his line with the leisure and freedom to ride the train to Vladivostok to hunt for lost things. It has been a long time coming.

    Grandfather’s words echo in Andrey’s memory: You can bend an alder tree, if you do it gradually.


  32. 159 words

    Love on the Rails

    “You can’t milk a cow.”, he said.

    “Yes you can!”, she screamed.

    “You didn’t let me finish. You can’t milk a cow by squeezing a sheep’s udders.”

    She imagined burning holes through his skull using the power of hatred. She was done.

    “I’m done.”, she said and moved two cars down. He, unable to stay in the cabin where they’d once made sweet monkey love, moved into third class sharing a berth with a travelling borscht salesman.

    It was a long train, as trains go, but the trip was a long trip, as trips go, and the two variables cancelled each other out. When they ran into each other in the dining car six days later, it was inevitable.

    Secretly she’d hoped this would happen. “It’s fate. He’s odd, but an odd treasure.”, she thought.

    He smiled boyishly and her old feelings surfaced. When he introduced her to his new girlfriend, Grushenka, the borscht salesman’s sister, her heart sank.


    • This is utterly embarrassing, I spelled “udder” as “utter” and at this moment wish I was another with a mother who’d focused on spelling lessons instead of one subject or the other.

      Should the great dragony host, whose great wisdom is the talk of all the land and whose great compassion is the saving grace of all the land, see fit to correct my mistake, I pledge my sword eternally at the ready against all her foes both foreign and domestic.


  33.    Aimless
    (160 words)

    Amos could no longer remember what he was looking for.  Like his favorite sweater, and that old cap his grandmother knitted, the treasure he’d hunted was lost on the train. Coming, going, the endless clack of the tracks, counting time one rail beat at a time beneath his feet.

    A train is a clock, he thought. Ticking time graphically, over hills, valleys, rivers. He’d been going somewhere, once. Now the journey was the destination.

    Once he’d fallen from a car, trying to hop back on. Now couldn’t remember where. He had a photograph in his wallet of a woman. A face. She might have meant something to him, maybe everything.

    Or nothing.

    An old love song played in his head. A name echoed the tracks: Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca.

    Last night, he dreamed of a child with dark eyes, a farmhouse, warm fields of sun-drenched wildflowers.

    This morning, Amos woke on the train, in a place full of mountains and snow.


  34. Landscapes
    by A J Walker

    Humboldt and Larsson sat for hours watching the great emptiness pass in unmoving impressionism. Iron crosses the flat bleached landscape as a bright scar; man’s mark across the permafrost desert.

    ‘It’s hypnotising.’ said Humboldt.

    ‘What?’ Larsson asked.

    ‘It’s hypnotising.’

    ‘I’d love to see just one tree to break this monotony.’ Larsson said. ‘Why did we come this way? I’m bored out of my tiny mind.’

    ‘Safer,’ Humbolt said. ‘Half an hour in a waiting room usually does for me, but I’m quite relaxed myself.’ He looked up to the bag rack. Larsson turned too.

    ‘I want to look at it again.’ said Larsson.

    ‘Soon we’ll be in Vlad and then we’ll have such money.’

    The two men turned back to the window and saw the sweep of the rails as they ate up the miles.

    The new chef dripped the poison into their thick coffee, watching the brief bloom like a Cezanne lily; their treasure would soon be his.

    160 words



  35. Strike a Pose
    159 words

    “How long am I supposed to stand here?” Stefan asked.

    Edward picked up the painting and smashed it on the ground six times. He squeezed a tube of purple paint all over it.

    “So…not much longer?”

    “I have told you so many times, if you move at all you spoil the work!”

    “You can’t play into stereotypes like this. No one’s going to pose for you if you act like the crazy artist.”

    Edward took a bite of his paintbrush.

    “Come on. The train’s going to leave soon. I can’t stay here anyway.” Stefan hopped down and patted Edward on the woebegone back.

    “This one was going to get me the prize,” Edward said. He rubbed tired eyes and left a trail of purple.

    “It’s not about whether you win or lose. You’ll always treasure our time together, no?”

    Edward snorted, rolled his eyes, and made a rude gesture. Total overkill.

    “Gee, thanks,” Stefan said. “I love you, too.”


  36. From the Huntsman, with Love

    (the right draft this time)
    Jim M
    160 words

    Every night I leave an apple outside her window. She never eats it with her red lips.

    For weeks after the train stopped I was aimless, crashed. I wandered nowhere slowly, an insomniac on the verge of the white forever, revelling in the reliving. I wondered many things, none so much as “why not”?

    And so it was that I found myself coming back to her, who I woke at the last moment with my numb shuffling feet. I was shaking, excited about the pictures the news would show. Awake, she must have heard the suitcase that I planted, so careful I was to make it look casual, normal.

    They stopped, emptied the train’s treasures and I could only watch, null and empty.

    I missed my chance. When I approach the Gates I will only have a pig’s heart to offer, they’ll know I failed.

    Maybe she can sleep again.

    So every night I leave an apple outside her window.


  37. The Black Cloud Invasion

    Jim M
    159 words

    Alena was unusually occupied on the way home from school.

    Alena sat and watched from the windows until her father got home.

    Alena hardly ate dinner.

    Her father, in the way he always could, made her confide what was wrong.

    “There were evil, scary black clouds on the horizon today father”

    Her father thought a moment “Actually, I did notice some black clouds on my break today. Thick ones that hung very low in the sky. They were a long way behind the train though. Far, far away.”

    “Natalya Onviic said that they are the smoke monsters in the sky make. Is that true?”

    “My treasure, listen to me- there are no monsters like that and if there were we’d be safe in our house on top of the hill” His smile twinkled.

    Alena, in bed, told donkey all her fears and between them they eventually negotiated sleep.

    She was awoken two hours later by the town’s flood siren.


    • Hi, Awesome Dragon? It’s me again. The newbie. I’m so sorry. The second last paragraph; ‘ fears and between then they eventually’

      Should read

      ‘told donkey all her fears and between them they eventually negotiated sleep’

      Thank you and I promise next time to check everything carefully


      • No worries! there’s extra grace for newbies. Also, oldies. -provided you are prepared to adequately provide the lair with goodies of some kind (chocolate is preferred).


  38. Hello Treasure, by Mark Driskill
    w.c. – 150 without title
    “Honey! Wake up! You’re having another dream!” Scott tried to hide his frustration, while Veronica, regained composure. Wiping the sweat from her brow, he tried to calm her. It had been weeks since either of them had slept through the night. The nightmares had begun soon after “Jeff” was sent away. At first, the dreams recalled his late night phone calls. His creepy voice, “Hello, my treasure.” Then his hand would literally come through the phone grasping her throat. She would wake everyone in the house screaming. Now the dreams were getting weirder. She’d see him standing on a train, calling to her. Scott tried to assure her that the creep was long gone and wouldn’t be back. Now it was 3:25 a.m., so she talked herself back into sleep mode. 3:47 a.m., the phone rang. H-Hello? “Hello, my treasure. Nice curtains…”


    • Aaaaaahhhh!!! I’m gonna have nightmares tonight!! Great story, though, and I of course am thrilled to have Veronica make an appearance in both of your stories this week. 😉


      • “mdriskill48 says: November 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm ok who is Veronica?”

        As I see it, there are, in fact, two distinct possibilities:

        The first, a staple of recent pop culture, is a reference to a show about a girl named Veronica from Mars. I never watched the show, but my eighteen year old daughter has watched every episode at least twice and according to the latest government census, has satisfied our household quota for number of views. (I lied about not watching the show. I loved it.)

        The second Veronica, a sub-debutante affectionately known as Ronnie, was the romantic focus of many 99 cent Archie comic books. She was quite rude and a narcissist to boot and treated Archie with feint and sometimes outright hostility. Thus instilling in two entire generations of men a deep yearning to fall for beautiful women who treat them badly.


  39. Seeing the Light

    After a while you get used to the ghosts at the station. The soldier with blood all over his uniform. The pickpocket doesn’t realise he’s dead. The ancient king with his grave treasures. Philip. The ghost train passes here once a month. Anyone who’s here nearly dies of fright when it rushes by, the ghosts all howling. I guess it’s a bit like being stuck on a rollercoaster.

    Sullivan went into the light last week, but Philip has been stuck here since the first train to enter the station ran him over. He always goes on about how trains were better in his day, but doesn’t mind the current ladies’ fashion, though. He’s always bothering me while I’m sweeping.

    When the clock strikes midnight, I hear the train and I step out onto the tracks in front of it.

    And then I’m stuck sweeping again with Philip muttering in my ear.

    Maybe next week I’ll see the light.

    Words: 159


  40. For Where Your Treasure Is…
    By Alissa Leonard
    160 words

    Transferring the patients of Saint Mary’s Asylum should’ve been simple – they were catatonic, or had been. The train woke Mr. Cassidy, beginning with incoherent mumblings about treasure and train robberies then animated stories.

    About halfway there, he flinched and pressed his hand against the window. “Lilith was here,” he said. I looked out at the empty desert and shook my head.

    “Was she someone special?” I asked. He was found with no identification and no comprehensible memory.

    He curled his legs under him and rested his forehead against the glass. I didn’t think he’d answer, but he whispered, “My wife,” as a tear crawled down his cheek.

    He didn’t move until we reached the second to last stop, at which point he bounded out of his seat. “My treasure!” he exclaimed before he jumped off the train and sprinted away.

    We found him at his home with a child in his arms. They hadn’t known he’d survived the train robbery.


  41. The Sick Train (Judge’s Entry)

    Sometime after dark, as the staff tucked away the last of the dinner dishes in the basement kitchen, twenty men reached an agreement: The Sick Train would make an unscheduled stop.

    Arguments and declarations through set jaws had echoed in the marble halls for hours. Black cars slammed their doors and angrily sped off into the night. The train must never stop outside the Designated Areas, they said.

    But this was a human being. This was all she had. Surely there could be an exception. A moment of compassion. It would harm no one.

    Seven days later, in a morning field in West Creek, the Sick Train would come quietly to a rare standstill, steam crowding around its engines. A woman would be lowered, gurney and all, to the ground. The horse, her only companion and greatest love, would cross the field and nuzzle her cheek for the last time.

    150 words w/o title


  42. Still Riding

    Over a century gone, but I recognized Parker immediately. The set of his jaw as he worked a crossword matched the expression he wore facing off Pinkerton goons. I also knew what he was after.

    I took the aisle seat. He glanced at me, back to the puzzle. The steppes blurred past the window in grays and whites. “I put a bullet in your head,” he said.

    “And in your own, if I remember correctly.” I remembered. Waking up in a morgue tends to stick with you.

    I missed the jerky clatter of old railroad cars, grassy gusts rolling off the prairies, even the outlaw life. “I can’t let you.”

    He eyeballed my chef’s garb. “You care?”

    “I own this.” The uniform lets me keep an eye on what I value. The ingots, sure, but more: Etta. He’d try to steal her, too. Although she’d never let him, I wasn’t going to risk it. He’d taken enough from me.

    @160 words
    Nancy Chenier


  43. Strangers on a Train

    Word count = 151

    “Maria, are you sure this was a good idea?”

    Gregor turned to look at the speaker, a woman. She seemed worried.

    “I don’t know, but I needed to try something,” said her companion. “Every day he slips further and further away. He used to love this journey. I thought … I hoped he would remember.”

    Gregor briefly wondered who they were talking about before their presence slipped his mind and he was gazing out of the window once more.

    “Gregor.” Maria leant forward and took his hand.

    Her touch, her smile, seemed hauntingly familiar but he just couldn’t place her.

    His anguish grew as he realised how much his mind resembled the empty landscape beyond; how all those memories, once hoarded like treasure, were vanishing as swiftly as the miles beneath the tracks. Then blessedly that too slipped away and the train sped on, carrying him into the darkness of night.


  44. For King and Country

    “Don’t cry, treasure,” Jimmy whispered in her ear as they clung to each other outside the waiting room. He tightened his arms around her. Her fingers grasped the back of his greatcoat. “Don’t cry. Or you’ll make me cry, and how would that look in front of the lads, eh?”

    “Don’t go,” she said.

    “I have to,” he replied. “King and Country and all that.”

    “Well, at least don’t die then.”

    He laughed and said, “I shall try not to,” and then he kissed her.

    Outside, steam billows from beneath the train, engulfing the platform and everyone on it.

    “This is it, boys!” shouts a man at the far end of the carriage. “We’re off!”

    A cheer erupts.

    Jimmy’s breath snags in his throat.

    As the steam clears, his eyes find her again. Catching sight of him, she lifts her head, squares her jaw and glares at him. “Don’t. Die,” she mouths.

    The train jolts forward. Jimmy tries to smile.

    160 words


  45. Treasure
    153 Words – @Dreampunkgeek

    They said we would be rich. We would be free. I left for years chasing after glittering gold dreams. Left you alone to wait for my triumphant return. Never realized it was crueler to abandon you, my beautiful wife, while I thought I was doing the right thing.

    Now I am back, pockets sagging with wealth, and you are not at our little house. A chill runs through these walls that our fireplace cannot hold back. Dust and cobwebs cover the place we once called home.

    You left me a note, tucked under the little ceramic kitten we received at our wedding.

    “Although we were apart, our hearts are one.”

    You knew you were sick before I left, but refused to tell me. Not wanting to stop me from following my dreams and knowing I would stay.

    The thing you never understood my love, is that you were always my dream. Only you.


  46. Daddy’s Treasure Map


    “What’s that Mama?”
    Aggie pointed to a plume drifting out of a dark hole in the sandstone bluff rising steeply just past the river.
    “It’s an ‘Idiots Claim’ honey. Like your father’s.”
    Aggie watched the smoke. The train they were in followed a loop in the river and allowed her to watch the smoke change shape in the still air.
    “What’s an ‘Idiots Claim’?”
    “It’s when you dig for gold, for treasure, where it can’t be found.”
    “How do you know they can’t find treasure?”
    “Because there’s no gold in sandstone.”
    Aggie looked at her mama. Of course she believed her, but Daddy…
    “Why? What if pirates buried it there? Maybe Daddy found a pirate’s map.”
    “There are no pirates. They were all caught a hundred years ago. And they didn’t bury treasure in rock millions of years old.”
    Aggie nodded. But in her heart she knew her Daddy would have treasure when they arrived.



  47. 160 words

    The Path Leading to the Door to Hell is Filled With Happiness

    “You go to hell.”

    “No, you go to hell.”

    “No way I’m going to hell first. After you.”

    “Oh no, no, no. I understand you’ve got a standing reservation in the books penned by Lucifer himself. So you go to hell, grab a table and I’ll be along shortly.”

    “How would that look, me showing up alone when the reservation was made for two? No darling, you go straight to hell, do not pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars … then order us a goat’s hoof appetizer and a nice pinot.”

    “I think white pairs better with goat hoof. I read it in the Train Traveller Connoisseurs Monthly.”

    “Is that the same magazine that described Oymyakon as the “frozen treasure of Russia’?”

    “The frozen part was right.”

    The pair laughed, dropped their bags and crumpled onto the red vinyl bench seat that would double as their bed for the duration of the six day trek to Ahal Province.


  48. The Greatest Treasure
    155 words

    Anna smiled at the chef. “They say that everyone who takes this train finds a great treasure. Are they talking about your soup?”

    “I’m flattered, though I know you’re hoping I say no.”

    “Your soup is your soup; it is unchanged either way. To find a series of increasingly greater treasures and continue to be told that they are still not the treasure would be a treasure in itself. Don’t you agree?”

    “So you don’t want to find the greatest treasure of all?”

    “I already have. I wish I hadn’t.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    No one ever did. How could they, if they hadn’t met the most perfect person in the world for themselves? And then been rejected. “They say ignorance is bliss. That’s not quite true. What I say is this: you have to be ignorant of bliss to settle for mere happiness.” But Anna still looked for the one who could improve on perfection.


  49. Stolen
    153 words

    We’d been running for so long, ducking and diving, scams and schemes and snake-oil. But in the end everything catches up with you, no matter how you twist and turn. 

    The train rocked a lullaby but I had to stay awake. I’d sat up all night, huddled in my coat, waiting for this final chance. I couldn’t let it slip through my fingers now. We were high in the mountains, and already the sky was beginning to lighten.

    I fished in my pocket for my second most precious thing. My map, my guide, folded and refolded until it frayed. Every line was crossed out now, except number five: ‘One last perfect sunrise together’. We’d cheated death for months, longer than anyone had believed possible. We’d achieved so much, but I always wanted more for her.

    I brushed her cheek with my fingers, and she stirred.

    ‘Honey,’ I whispered, ‘I think it’s time.’


  50. “Live Through”
    Word Count: 148

    To watch the life drain from a person’s body until all that is left is emptiness – this is a hard thing. But some people ride fast bikes, politicians politick, and I kill people who want to stop living.

    These dark skies above reflect the darkness my soul is drowning in. I am The Shinigami now, living in a realm far removed from the norm.

    There was one time when I refused. When I left and walked out.

    That night I had an incredibly real dream. I was frozen in place, completely surrounded by the thickest darkness. Out of that, an even darker arm shot out toward my chest and plunged inside me.
    I woke up, with the sensation of something being lodged inside me, gripping my soul.

    I went, poured a cup of tea and ate a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes, you just live through your darkness.


  51. Josh Bertetta
    160 Words

    There are things in this world we can’t see or smell or taste. We don’t even know they’re there; they don’t affect us at all. Then there’s things like that that can derail us, even turn our lives into a train wreck, turning our hearts, our greatest treasures, into lumps of coal.

    Ironic isn’t it?

    Considering where I find myself that is.

    It took me years to get my life back on track. Some would say my motives are crazy. If I were in Spain, they’d say they are “loco” motives.

    Funny isn’t it?

    No, not really.

    I fit in quite well. Nobody noticed I wasn’t supposed to be there.

    So I wait. Probably get off at the next stop.

    The bastard I spent much of my life looking for just ate the pasta I made special for him. Some things in this world are odorless, tasteless and when you, say, sprinkle those things over food, they do affect us.


  52. The Treasure Special

    I stepped up into the first carriage, but many on the platform didn’t seem to realise that the train had arrived.

    “Leave your baggage behind, ” the Conductor suggested with a smile, “I’ll stow it for you, no trouble. This end is full, but head through and you’ll find plenty of room further back.”


    “Thank you, Sir . . . and welcome to the Treasure Special”.

    The murmur of contented travellers enjoying the warmth and light, sharply contrasted with the cold dull platform.

    At Compartment 3, I was confused to be greeted once again by the Conductor.

    “How did you . . . .?”

    “Oh,” he smiled, “I’ve known my way around this train all my life – it’s the family business. We have room for you in Row 7.”

    I passed more welcoming faces and then was greeted again by . . . the Conductor.

    “Here you are, Sir.”

    “But this seat card says, ‘Saved’.”

    The Conductor’s face beamed, radiantly. “Yes, Sir, that it does.”

    Word count: 152


  53. Elisa @AverageAdvocate
    Word Count: 160
    Welcome Electraliens

    Never before has the wind whipped like cream and the ocean churned like butter as much as it did this time, in their new device.

    I don’t believe in magic; fate either. But electricity–now that’s the hummer. I’d been a big fan of Tesla’s back in the day, yet now we electricians are considered old-fashioned. Biology dug its heels in the terraform, botanists growing tree-hanging flank-steaks and zookeepers corralling hybrids (I’ll never understand why they innovated Dragonflaorillas).

    They must have come to me first–no less than eighteen times–because I’m loyal to the currents. Nothing else could explain their quick-with-thunder appearances. And how else could the foreigners speak without talking into the circuitry in our brains?

    Which is why I’ve stood as an “x” marking the spot, waiting the return of the electric geniuses to reveal their lighting, reverberating in glory from the stars. I’ll bridge this gap, assuring the masses they aren’t invaders but mentors. (They might even be gods.)


  54. Trackside Mechanics
    (160 Words)

    The pops of distant gunfire verified that his fellow riders from what remained of the National Guard were making good use of their time while Seamus tried to get the spray container to give up its contents. It wasn’t the first time he had to stop the whole operation to fix the one of the five dozen cylinders of pesticide that comprised the majority of the train.

    He looked up and found his problem. A mottled severed hand had somehow screwed itself into the end of the industrial sized sprayer on this side of the cargo container. He snorted at the thought of the vermin finally learning how to stop their own extermination. Seamus dislodged the obstruction and pink vapor immediately sprayed out. The hand disintegrated leaving behind its engagement ring. Seamus collected this treasure to add to his collection of artifacts from the first leg of their journey to eradicate the zombies that had been rampant these last decades.


  55. Fuelling the future
    @geofflepard 159 words
    Frank watched with disinterest. They were late. The Santa Cruz-Shanghai fuel express wouldn’t survive if it wasn’t reliable; fuel rods must be in Shanghai by noon, two hours away or the lights went out again. He shut the door.
    ‘We’re moving, Frank. You naked yet?’
    Frank smiled and he pulled off the scrubs; even naked would seem overdressed soon. Near 140 C inside last time when the train slowed as they had approached the deepest point of their journey under Africa.
    The journey would be hell, even if the bonus was good – it would pay for a little slice of treasure with a cyberwhore in Shanghai.
    Frank walked into the control room and stared at John and Walter, naked apart from their pouches. They were already pouring sweat and they were barely underground.
    “They call this progress, boys,” he said. “We’re travelling through the Earth’s crust at speeds over 1000 mph yet we’re dressed, like cavemen in loin cloths.


  56. Expunged

    Volatile clouds poison the sky, and remaining leaves are loosed from nearby trees.
    I harbor hope in the rusty valves of my heart with each passing fall and select a pencil. I always choose a pencil and begin to write, anything but an adventure. It’s chipped china dolls and abandoned carnival grounds.

    Burnt coffee sat untouched on the hotplate. She never drank it, only made it for him. An habitual adventure for him, distant cities, unexplored lands, and gifts of untold fortune. X had always marked the spot, the place where real treasure was kept, the place I’d cross and he’d hope to die. X marked his indelible love on my child-sized heart.

    Cumulonimbus clouds and acrid coffee, omens of his departure. Dad ultimately chose adventure; it was the true X.

    I write in pencil and enjoy the option of an eraser. It taunts me. The thing about life, it can’t be erased. You cannot undo what’s been done.



  57. Cursed Chain

    This was the risky part. It could go easy…
    Peter felt the slight jarring as the couplings pulled, listened to the wheels beginning to roll on the bands of steel, watched through the corner of his eye as the station building passed, his breath as slow as the passing clunks of the sleepers. With the increasing speed of the Moscow-Berlin Express his breathing eased to be overtaken by the song of the wheels.
    The carriage door opened. “Tickets please,” the guard announced.
    Polished boots arrived at his feet. From behind the blind of his newspaper Peter presented his ticket. It was clipped and returned. No conversation.
    Forests of mesmerising dark conifers passed in twilight. Peter was drifting away into warm dreams of journey’s end. With a sudden whoosh the carriage entered a tunnel; stiletto steel punched into his heart.
    Peter’s scarf was pulled away and wrapped around the assailant’s neck. Ownership of the Feodorovna Black Diamond Necklace had changed again.

    @CliveNewnham – 160 words


  58. “Long Train Running Away”
    by Michael Seese
    158 words

    You look at the train cascading away into infinity and have only one thought. Escape. Escape from life, from this life. Escape from the future, the future you dread, but whose script already has been penned. In blood.

    You look at your past. Town to town to town. Mistake to mistake to mistake. You wish you could get on the right track. But that train derailed long ago.

    You look at the gallery of faces… radiant, expectant. They beam like suns. You see only an eclipse. Look happy. They came to see a wedding, not a funeral. They’ll see a funeral soon enough.

    You look at your maid of honor—your latest maid of honor—with your face of detachment as she gathers your ironically white train and gushes, “You look beautiful.” Perhaps, some day, her too.

    You look at your next victim, blissfully naive on this, the happiest day of his life, and tell him, “I do.”


  59. The Treasure of Sierra’s Madre
    158 words

    Cast in stark relief against the darkened sky the train caught the last rays of sunlight, reflecting them outward: silver, glowing gold in the evening.

    I thought of all the tales my mother told me when I was growing up: how there were riches untold in the north country; how the greedy and covetous would try to steal it, but they could never understand the power that protected the treasure. Its strength outweighed their greed, it endured while they threw themselves upon it, only to find the treasure was more then they could hope to carry away.

    I bowed my head: I was no longer a little girl dreaming of treasure and adventure. I was a woman, returning home for duties I never wished to fulfill.

    I let my eyes follow the rail, glowing gold like the train itself and suddenly my sorrow lifted. I saw
    the treasure my mother cherished: the road home is paved in gold.


  60. Este tren est mi vida
    150 words
    Imagine your life as a train, each carriage a segment of your history. It stretches back across the years until the end is indistinguishable from the horizon.
    Now consider the treasures that could be found within each carriage – long lost joys and half remembered dreams; that perfect day when she held your hand and didn’t let go.
    Not all carriages hold precious freight.
    That time she left, suitcase in hand? She never looked back.
    What if you could uncouple that carriage instead of one another?
    Open up your possible pasts?
    Would you choose to do it – risking the future on one pivotal moment?
    I chose to – looking backwards to a brighter tomorrow.
    The world is now edged in a fringe of expectancy – high definition and thrillingly uncertain.
    Stoke the engine – we’re going off the rails.
    Butch and Sundance jumped – we’re going out in style.


  61. Identity Theft

    I scoot toward the dining car when the stench slams into me like a fist of rancid meat. My arm is wrenched behind my back, forcing me into an empty berth.

    He’s found me.

    After decades of chase, identity changes, astral distances—he just cannot tolerate my existence.

    His stare rakes my body. “I don’t look half-bad as a woman.”

    I wince. Outside coppery stars stipple a sullen sky as the railcar slices through the dunes of this anonymous planet. My last sight shouldn’t be of him. The smell’s bad enough. Did his olfactory implants, programmed to scent out shared DNA, render me similarly?

    His weapon whines on activation. As Primary, he’s well within his rights to destroy me.

    “You’re the last,” he gloats, secure in his singularity.

    Disintegration prickles my skin. He doesn’t know about the zygote gems and memory coins I cached at every sympathetic clinic. Small victories, but I’ll take them.

    There’ll never be only one.

    159 words
    Nancy Chenier


  62. The Train (158 words)

    After Alexi boarded the train, he realized it was different. No conductor ever asked for his ticket. This was a good thing. When he fumbled in his suit pockets, they were empty.

    He had no wallet, no money, no keys. He searched, frantic as a dragon who has lost his treasure. His fingers clawed empty cloth.

    Beside him, the rows of seats were filled with passengers. Old people, families. Crying babies. In the back row a man clutched a goat in his lap. Near the front a woman had a wicker cage of chickens.

    “There’s the ocean!” someone called in a seat near the front of his car, a man leaning his head out of the window. “Look kids!”

    People looked from the windows, as if they had never been to the sea, and Alexi waited for the train to stop. But it didn’t.

    The train sped on over the water, on tracks invisible to the naked eye.


  63. The Return

    The compartment was empty apart from Astrid, Grandfather and the echoes of the others who had sat here before. Outside, brown and grey stone merged into green fields, as blurred memories rose of her breath clouding vision and sculpting fragile hearts onto glass.

    The carriage swaying, drumbeats of rail under wheel. Interrupted only by places that Grandfather spoke fondly of – Bristol – Taunton – Exeter, Astrid watched grey faces alight into a world devoured by grey rain.

    Near their destination the sun banished the gloom. Astrid alighted onto the platform, the seaside town of Torquay. Holding tightly to Grandfather she navigated their way through the bustle of tourists and commuters.

    The beach wasn’t far from the station, the world ending at the border of red sand and dark water. Astrid stood at the edge, time slowing as she watched white horses gallop, salt coating her skin.

    Then she let Grandfather go.

    Just as he had made her promise she would.

    158 words


  64. Today?

    Fourteen carriages.
    Sixty seats in each.
    A dozen members of staff.
    A handful of pets.
    And twelve sticks of C4 strapped to my chest.

    I take my seat, kick my bag under the table, a studied appearance of relaxed disinterest.
    But the man beside me has a burrito.
    The woman opposite is on her phone.
    Her kids have bleeping, blooping mobile games.
    And however much I want to see them burn, my need to hide is greater.
    And before I know it, I’m on the footplate, heading for home.

    Maybe today isn’t the day.

    Then a woman struggles up, a bag in each hand, a tousle haired toddler trailing at her heels.
    Bags on first?
    Or the child?
    She looks to me for help, and I smile.
    I lift the child, grinning as her feet kick against my deadly cargo.
    “Up you come treasure.”
    Then I smile again, return to my seat.
    And wait for the whistle to blow.

    160 words


  65. Rolling Brotherhood of the Vision Family
    (158 words)

    Honey gripped the knife handle to the point where her fist was as white as her robes. She was ready to do everything in her power to keep Brother Gemini from getting to the Apostle first.
    Like every Saturday morning, Apostle had strapped himself to the front of the outside chassis of the train engine. Their leader was receiving God’s treasured guidance as a whisper in the pummeling wind as the train accelerated through the mountains and away from the judgment of any one land-anchored community. She’d secreted her weapon from her bunk in the wives car, and quietly made passage through the two children’s cars, the worship and fellowship cars before noticing Gemini trailing her.

    Now was it was her last chance to escape before she could bring another of the Apostle’s babies into the Vision Family. Honey kicked Brother Gemini away and started sawing at the straps holding the Apostle to the front of the train.


  66. Free Falling
    159 words

    “You’re going to fall and kill yourself.”

    He was leaning off the platform, his fingers gripping the metal handrail. He smiled at her and let the wind whip through his loose clothes as the train sped through the country. “I’m not going to fall,” he yelled, but the rushing wind carried his words off.

    “You’re going to fall out,” she repeated.

    “My grip is strong,” he said. “The rail will give before my fingers do. But it’s cute that you’re worried.” He flashed a smile and continued the activity. He closed his eyes and imagined he was free falling. The blast of cold air made it hard to breathe, but it was preferable to the suffocating air in the cabin. Everything was perfect until he felt long nailed little fingers loosen his grip.

    “Told you,” she said, seeing his body roll on the ground. She returned to the cabin and continued crunching the numbers on his life insurance policy.


  67. Beautiful Potential
    157 words

    Every day brought a new location with the promise of new adventure. No regrets and no worries were his way of life. When the train stopped, he became excited with the prospect of finding a new treasure to add to his collection of knickknacks. Soon he’d have to find a larger and sturdier box to store them all.

    This particular day, he looked out of the train car, pensive and quiet, in the early morning light. Passengers were boarding, and he liked to imagine he knew why they were traveling and where they were headed. Noticing a young woman struggling with her luggage, he stepped down onto the platform.

    “May I assist you?” he asked gently.

    She blushed a beautiful shade of pink. “Thank you kindly, mister.”

    He picked up her luggage as though it weighed nothing and helped her onto the train. They smiled at each other.

    And somehow he knew he had found real treasure.


  68. @colin_d_smith
    151 words

    I flick cigarette ash at the station as we pull out, and watch it catch on the breeze. How I treasure the freshness in the air that chills my skin, making me feel alive. That life is good.

    It was the stroganov, I’m sure. I saw the look on Uri’s face when he ate it. The beef was like day old gum, and the wine in the sauce too vinegary. I knew this, but what can I do? I must work with what I have, and I don’t have the talent to make it more than it is.

    I throw my cigarette to the wind, watch it dance and disappear, and glance at the man behind me. His Makarov is badly concealed. Pointlessly concealed. I know the drill. A couple of miles, then a quick shot to the head and I too will fall to the wind.

    Unless I jump first.


  69. #837

    His decision had been primal, spontaneous: all he knew was that he had to get the hell away from the emotionless walls, the God-awful food, the smell of disinfectant

    No longer would he be just another experiment.

    He escaped at night just after yanking the needle out (as if the meds calmed him, anyway) when the only woman working was too busy solving a crossword to notice. He wore the hospital pajamas (they were comfortable), carrying only a pre-packaged meal, his last “black market” pack of cigarettes, and a light.

    When he reached security, the guard was too preoccupied with his phone to notice a patient out of bed.

    Getting out had been a hell of a lot easier than #837 anticipated. No alarms. No trouble. Just freedom.

    He sneaked onto the 5:00 train and took a long drag on a cigarette, resting his arm on the doorway as he treasured his first moment of sanity in twenty years.

    159 words, sans title


  70. Ennui
    157 words

    It was the beginning of another adventure. For some, at least. Not for Lane. Never for Lane. Lane was reduced to the same trip she always took on Mondays.

    In the beginning, she believed that the treasures she carried would make her life interesting, but that turned out to be not so. The passengers were whiny and droll. And if someone needed a hand, no hand was given. They were useless. She was really starting to regret choosing “passenger” instead of “cargo” when they offered her the choice.

    The worst part was those who stared off into the distance with an expression of expectation and wonderment. The look itself was only mildly obnoxious, but they always held her door open to do their gazing, which left her feeling incomplete and cold. These passing humans, whom she believed would be her salvation from boredom, turned out to be nothing more than the nails in her coffin of redundancy.


  71. Spelunking with the Czar
    Evan Montegarde
    160 Words

    Comrade Gennady assured us the Czar had left his fortune hidden in the forests that fringed the Heilongjiang River. The arduous train ride was abysmal, uncomfortable and depressing. But now we were here, wandering about in the moist, dense conifers and young Rostislav could hardly contain himself.

    “I can smell money comrades! It is here somewhere close.”

    We searched the deep woods aimlessly for days, primarily guided by the wisdom of Kubanskaya vodka. The magic elixir finally brought us to some desolate cave carved into a hillside by a million years of the endless bitter Siberian wind. We were obviously totally lost.

    When we entered we saw not gold but Czar Nicholas standing in uniform with his hand outstretched smiling rather too happily at us all. Rostislav drenched his pants.

    I realized my life as I’d known it was certainly over, but being Russian that was no loss. So whatever strange things were about to transpire, I was smiling.


  72. Consciously Uncoupling

    I’m standing in a doorway of the Khabarovsk train at Gostovskaia, index finger of my left hand habitually picking at a hangnail on the thumb, unfocussed eyes staring into the distance, as Nadezhda struggles with her bags towards the ticket office.

    After my fifth shot of Stolichnaya before 8:30 am – ‘Breakfast of Champions’ – I’d stubbed out my Belomorkanal cigarette and whispered into her ear.

    She’d snorted derisively, wordlessly implying that my performance in that department had of late become a little… lacklustre – a sure sign that the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, let-him-down-easy speech was not about to disturb the immaculately applied gloss on her prettily pouting lips.

    I know what you’re thinking: why doesn’t he jump down, run after her, declare his undying love for her, show just a little of the passion that had been missing from their relationship for so long?

    Truth is, I just don’t have it in me any more.

    Word Count: 159

    (“lacklusTRE- A SURE sign” – hidden treasure! Is that pushing the envelope too far, Dragon Mistress?)


  73. Flash Friday entry for November 7, 2014 submitted by Paul Britner

    Ahmed couldn’t stop wondering, “how did I get here?” Not standing on a train departing from his hometown just outside of Moscow. More precisely, he wondered, “how did I arrive at this place of departure leaving behind everything I have ever loved?”
    Of course, he and the train had a destination. A friend had arranged for him to become the chef at a tourist hotel in Khabarovsk, a city that gets a million Chinese visitors each year eager to experience Russian food, drink, and dance. That was not on his mind though.
    Instead, he thought of Sasha, a sexy sous chef with whom he had a brief affair, and his mentor at the restaurant, Michael, whom he embarrassed once at a party after too much Vodka. Just moments, really, in the big scheme of things. Enough, though, to place him on the rail wall of train looking back at all he had lost.


  74. Flash Friday entry for November 7, 2014
    re-submitted by Paul Britner to add word count 153 words

    Ahmed couldn’t stop wondering, “how did I get here?” Not standing on a train departing from his hometown just outside of Moscow. More precisely, he wondered, “how did I arrive at this place of departure leaving behind everything I have ever loved?”
    Of course, he and the train had a destination. A friend had arranged for him to become the chef at a tourist hotel in Khabarovsk, a city that gets a million Chinese visitors each year eager to experience Russian food, drink, and dance. That was not on his mind though.
    Instead, he thought of Sasha, a sexy sous chef with whom he had a brief affair, and his mentor at the restaurant, Michael, whom he embarrassed once at a party after too much Vodka. Just moments, really, in the big scheme of things. Enough, though, to place him on the rail wall of train looking back at all he had lost.


  75. Treasure Run
    (150 words)

    Frank Mason stared out of the train car. He warily watched the dozens of people standing at the train station. Any one of them could be an enemy agent. Frank took a quick glance behind him to make sure that his precious cargo was still there. A sack full of treasure sat inconspicuously in the corner of the box car. He had traveled deep into the Amazon jungle to acquire it. Frank was now only one stop away from successfully making the delivery. His employer was paying him a handsome sum for the package. He only needed to get there first.

    Frank watched two men in suits suspiciously until they disappeared around a corner. He was tense. He needed to relax. If he got too anxious he would make a mistake. He turned and walked into the train car. He never saw the bullet, or the man who fired it.

    by Ian Phillips
    Age 13


  76. My first time taking part

    With blind eyes Dan reaches for her. Then he remembers he`s aboard an overnight train. Beth is waiting for him at the station. He smiles; she`s a treasure.

    He can`t wait to be home. Can`t wait to be in her arms. He can`t wait to…what the hell is that stench? Dan`s reverie halts ; a strong chemical odour assaults his nostrils.

    He`s wide awake now, jumps up and pushes the door. Nothing (it`s not locked, it should open.)

    Tries again.


    He batters on the door. Screams.


    Stranger still, he can`t hear the engine`s hum; he can`t hear any sounds at all. It is eerily silent. What the hell is going on? Is he having a dream? (Of course. That must be it) He pinches himself. No, apparently not.

    “Something`s gone wrong. We`ll have to terminate him.”

    “No. We can`t. I won`t do it.” Ken looks at his boss in disbelief.

    “We can. Or rather, I can. ” He reaches for the syringe. “I`ll start with you first.”


  77. Famine
    159 words

    This was the Holy Grail of the tattered earth. The war took everything, and in its wake only misery and destruction remained buoyant. He’d heard rumors of a supply train containing tons of food vanishing high in the mountains, but it had been too dangerous for him to travel with his family. Now he was alone.

    The snow crunched under his boots and the handle was burning cold. The door screeched when he pried it open.

    Inside the scene was euphoric. He fell to his knees at the sight of cans, bottles, and jars. He couldn’t stop the emotion from pouring out of him, and it flowed in the form of sobs, tears, and urine. No longer would he feel the pangs of hunger, or the madness that led him to feast on his family’s flesh.

    A crack reverberated in the small space. It was the sound of axe penetrating skull. The man fell forward. Her treasure remained safe.


  78. CANCEL

    The five o’clock from North Vernon whistled in a high pitched, distressed moan as it rolled in from the east.

    “There’s another train on the track coming from the west!” yelled the station master.

    “Contact the engineers!” A flurry of activity erupted as staff manned phones and computers.

    “The engineer on the eastbound claims the same call number as the westbound!”

    Waiting passengers prayed in hunched postures for treasured lives not to be wasted. Meanwhile the Doppler Effect pervaded the ears of all, with resounding wailing of the nearing trains, lowering in pitch as they approached in equanimity.

    Suddenly, raging steel machines are within yards of each other in a howling competition for that cushion of grace. However, the two touch in a slow motion collision without the crash, yet obliterating and absorbing, meeting in a spectral disappearance, whistling canceling whistle as sound waves meld in a rumbling shudder of quiet.

    The newspapers described the incident: Doppler Doppelganger Derailing.

    WC = 159, exclusive of title


  79. Mirage

    With blind eyes Dan reaches for her. Then he remembers he`s aboard an overnight train. Beth is waiting for him at the station.

    He smiles; she`s a treasure. He can`t wait to be home. He can`t wait to be in her arms. He can`t wait to… what the hell is that stench? Dan`s reverie halts; a strong chemical odour assaults his nostrils.

    Wide awake now, he jumps up, pushes the door. Nothing. (why won`t it open; it`s not locked?)Tries again. Nothing. He batters on the door. Screams. (repeatedly) Again nothing.

    Stranger still, he can`t hear the engine`s hum. In fact, he can`t hear anything. It`s eerily silent. What the hell is going on? A dream? Yes, that must be it. He pinches himself. No, apparently not.

    “Something`s gone wrong. We`ll have to terminate him.”
    “No we can`t. I won`t do it.”
    “We can. I can.” He reaches for the syringe. “I`ll start with you first.”

    This is my first time taking part.


  80. Border Crossing
    158 words

    Paris in the thirties, talk of war and art. He is  with the Resistance. She is a Russian spy.  They  have met before, as rivals. This time, they will work together to  get  a treasure across the border.

    The treasure is a mathematical formula.  The mathematician’s name is Alexi  Ivanov, whose paper on random numbers will  inspire Alan Turing a few years later in  his work in cracking the Enigma code.

    The Siberian night is sharp and clear, where the train is stopped at the border.  Warm breath and cigarettes. Wearing sable, she distracts the guards.

    Meanwhile,  fur traders approach the train.  Two of them climb  aboard.

    In the private car, she helps them out of their disguises, hands them the identification papers.

    “You,” she says to the mathematician, ” are an art history professor.”

    “And who am I this time?” the other one asks.

    “You are a chef,” she says.  “I think we would all like some soup.”


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