Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 3

MERRY CHRISTMAS to those of you who celebrate it, and WELCOME, WELCOME, one and all, to another round of Flash! Friday! We may be suffering pumpkin pie hangovers (yes, I said “we”; there’s no way I’m alone in my affection for all things Pumpkin (er, right?). [[Last week I made a pumpkin soup with undertones of cumin and ginger, ohhhhh so good I melted in a little puddle of pumpkinyumminess]]), but writing Must Go On. Well, perhaps not must. But it does, whether we wish it or no. The words keeping coming and coming and COMING, and we’ve got to put them somewhere, or die.

Perhaps it is must after all?

(Raise your hand if you’re addicted to flash fiction……)

(Raise your other hand if you’re addicted to pumpkin.)

(Raise both hands if you have a brilliant pumpkin recipe that Needs Sharing. And then tweet it to me at @FlashFridayFic AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.)

(Now I’m feeling inspired. One of these days we should do a Foodie Friday in which we submit favorite recipes, and we’ll have celebrity chefs in as judges. Wouldn’t that be a kick, eh?!)

(My favorites are pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup, pumpkin chili, pumpkin-sausage risotto, pumpkin lattes, and OH MY WORD does it get any better than pumpkin ravioli.)

(No, I’ve not been in the eggnog. Why do you ask?)


Our fourth team of new Dragon Captains (oh, picky, picky. Yes, we’ve swapped — you’ll see Team Three next week) consists of familiar and beloved writer Sinéad O’Hart and returning judge (returning!? now that’s a courageous dragon heart) Pratibha Kelapure. Be sure to read their bios and their judging philosophies to give you a better idea of the kinds of things they look for in winning entries. Plus, reading their bios is just plain fun and a wee bit nosy.  


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Tuesday this week. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays (Thursday this round).  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Now, fetch yourself something pumpkin, send an SOS to your favorite knight (THREE dragons attacking today!), and write a story based on the photo below.

* Word count: Write a 150-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, excluding title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm 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.


Edmonton Chinese New Year. CC photo by IQRemix.

Edmonton Chinese New Year. CC photo by IQRemix.




380 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 3

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 159

    The Race

    No one warns you, the day of the results.

    Up ‘til now, the billboard is empty of places. You watch the cardboard judges as you pace yourself for another round, study the competition, judge their stamina, weigh it against your own.

    Harsh breaths, thudding pulses, you find no relief in the heat of the moment. You can only go on, praying for one last surge of energy before the curve.

    You trained, hugged the railings a thousand times in preparation. You dared to hope, to practice a victory lap. You dared to prance into the winner’s circle for the feel, the brief dream of adulation.

    But the words that fell like poisoned lead from the doctor’s lips erased the illusion. The test results mirrored themselves in your eyes.

    Doesn’t matter how often you practice the race. In the end, the only run that counts is the last lap around that track.

    And sometimes, the leader stumbles in the mud.


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 143


    Kaleidoscopes of painted faces swirl the glass.

    They turn in dizzying circles, a parade of facades that bury and hide the true faces that die inside a shell, an armor-plated covering that cracks for no one.

    Some smile, the corners of their mouths turning up in a painted grimace, their china-doll perfection hiding the black shadows inside, the porcelain hands clasped close across their chests in the last defense.

    Some deck out in feathers and curls, brilliant colors and flashing lights distracting all others from the fragile wisps of soul-tears, of ragged pleas for attention, for love, for the slightest murmur of approval.

    Some hide shyly in the crowd, afraid to blossom, preferring instead to cloak their rosebud from the sun, lest it burst into bloom, vulnerable to predators.

    The masquerade tilts across the mirror, and you watch,
    Behind your own mask.


  3. @Making_Fiction

    158 words



    He sees the dragons, or maybe he doesn’t.

    His people are descended from dragons.

    The colour in his eyes is fading. Have they now come for him?

    Visions come. Visions go. They permeate his mind like the fragments of decay and disease. Dementia is spiral of irretrievable loss. Perhaps one day the very fabric of his being will have disappeared into the breeze like the helicopter-whirl of a sycamore seed.

    There are no survivors in this war.

    He remembers his childhood neighbourhood – fields of endless crops nuzzling the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. Dragons guarding the steps like living serpents.

    He remembers the war. The men in uniforms from America. They came to protect his village, they said. He worked as interrupter. Despised by both sides.

    His memories are living nightmares. His finest days are half-dream and the slumbering pull of medication. He sees his wife. Did he even have a wife?

    Soon the dragons will embrace him.


  4. As the Dragon Wishes

    155 words

    Chan Li looked at the papier maché dragon head and grimaced. Light from the naked bulb reflected in the glass eyes making them glow red, and menacing. Every year he promised himself he wouldn’t prance about like a fool to invoke the blessings of imaginary spirits.
    Moving to Atlanta was meant to be the break, but there was always some reason to be New York for Chinese New Year. It wasn’t even the commercial glitterfest of the main parades. This was the real one, so his lao-lao said. In an out of restaurants and alleys, down into fetid cellars and up endless stairs to illegally partitioned sublets. Well, this would be the last one.
    Slipping the dragon head on Chan heard his lao-lao’s voice whispering inside his head, ‘You’re an earth dragon. Noble and strong.’ Like me was the unsaid context. He wondered if he’d end up as dogmatically imperious as she’d been.



  5. Brave New World
    @geofflepard 155 words
    A boy stares at the counter, entranced. In a world of colour, monochrome is a disease.
    Cuteness caps practicality; frills beat substance. At every stage they add a splash, twisting the essence to increase the attraction. A sure death is the bland brand.
    The Dutch hybridised the tulip centuries ago and the urge to purge the natural in favour of the commercial is inherent, a commonplace. Subtle fingers taunt Mother Nature’s long history of selection, short circuiting Darwin to stymie the competition. Shape and size too fall victim in the pell-mell pursuit of novelty.
    This year, it is sea urchins, gaudy bright and fearless, lining the counter as cocksure science and corporate greed push the product. Laboratories compete to dig deeper into matter’s core, DNA hunting for the next thrill. They’ve conquered plants, now the simple mollusc.
    The child looks at his fingers. ‘Mummy, can I have blue hands?’
    ‘One day, darling, one day.’


  6. Moments of Stillness
    ( a villanelle)
    140 words

    We dance a life of sinuous excess,
    dancers bound to the song, writhing, twisting.
    What remains are the moments of stillness.

    Inside the head of each Prince or Princess
    the world exists just to do our bidding,
    we dance a life of sinuous excess

    Each attempt we make is to be the best,
    to capture and keep memories fleeting;
    what remains are the moments of stillness.

    When drums beat, horns blow, and trumpets express
    joy, though if inside we quail, despairing,
    we dance a life of sinuous excess.

    Today we know what are our interests.
    Our days and nights of dance near an ending
    what remains are the moments of stillness.

    Things change, times pass and tunes fade, quieting,
    leaving us laid upon the floor resting.
    We danced a life of sinuous excess
    what remains are the moments of stillness.



  7. Gifted
    (158 words)
    I wrap want you want of me into neat, little gift boxes.
    Respectful. Academic. Quiet. Invisible.
    These gifts I offer up each day, laying them before you: hoping they will stop your eyes from scorching me, praying they will keep burning hot words from your lips.
    Your danger lies dormant for days perhaps weeks, until some part of me escapes, and I remind you again of the curve at my waist, the fat at my hips, the smoothness of my hairless skin.
    I am not a son.
    Then the heat pours from your mouth scalding and scathing. I am not what you wanted.
    I am Eve.
    This last time, I damp down the searing disappointment, with academic results that smash my peers to smithereens. You settle back, not feasting, of course, but chewing on the morsels of this half victory.
    When you are lulled into slumber, I slip from here to be reborn into the fullness of me.


    • “I remind you again of the curve at my waist, the fat at my hips, the smoothness of my hairless skin.”

      “I am not a son.
      Then the heat pours from your mouth scalding and scathing. I am not what you wanted.
      I am Eve.”

      Recently reading about the degradation of women in late BC early AD, and these lines struck those already hot cords. You capture the despair of innate insufficiency well.


    • Sorry for being so messy! I’d like this one to be my entry, if that’s okay. (I have sorted the typos I detailed in the comments.)

      (158 words)
      I wrap what you want of me into neat, little gift boxes.
      Respectful. Academic. Quiet. Invisible.
      These gifts I offer up each day, laying them before you: hoping they will stop your eyes from scorching me, praying they will keep burning hot words from your lips.
      Your danger lies dormant for days, perhaps weeks, until some part of me escapes, and I remind you again of the curve at my waist, the fat at my hips, the smoothness of my hairless skin.
      I am not a son.
      Then the heat pours from your mouth scalding and scathing. I am not what you wanted.
      I am Eve.
      This last time, I damp down the searing disappointment with academic results that smash my peers to smithereens. You settle back, not feasting, of course, but chewing on the morsels of this half victory.
      When you are lulled into slumber, I slip from here to be reborn into the fullness of me.


      • This is so beautiful and heartbreaking. You perfectly capture the feelings associated with not being able to live up to expectations, to not be loved for who you are. I love your last line—so hopeful and triumphant.


  8. Please may I get a dragony wand to remove the comma in the second last paragraph between ‘disappointment’ and ‘with’. Lots of chocolatey pumpkin on its way! Thank you.


    • Sorry! Would it be possible to also change the first ‘want ‘ on the first line to ‘what’. I thought I had recovered well from yesterday’s festivities but obviously not!


  9. @Making_Fiction

    160 Words

    St George – Slayer of dragons and lover of honey.


    Saint George, or Georgios of Lydda, recalled the battle.

    The North Dragon had reeked of the seas; of ancient brine and decayed prey. The dragon glanced at him contemptuously. His face was coloured of pink coral and diluted blood.

    “You have no business here, boy solider,” he rumbled, a voice of grinding rock.

    “I’ve come to kill you, like I killed South,” George replied.

    “You got lucky, boy. South was old, weak and alone. There are three of us here. We are strong.”

    He looked at East, a face of orange flames. He looked at West, a white face of bleached bones of corpses.

    He dropped his lance and broadsword to the ground. The secret apiarist opened his satchel and released the bees from the hive.

    They swarmed and attacked the dragons. A thousand bee-stings to the eyes will kill anything.

    But… an apiarist does not make a legend. Decapitating the heads, he quickly concocted tales of swordsmanship and heroics.


  10. Holiday Deals

    158 words

    “Open wide.”

    Obediently Jimmy’s mouth became a cave, a deep dark chasm for the probe to explore. He kept his eyes fixed on Mr Wilson as the man lowered his masked face towards him, bringing his fish eyes, dead eyes ever closer; a tie, garish purple, hideous orange.

    “Present from the wife,” said Mr Wilson, responding to his look.

    She must really hate him to give him that, thought Jimmy. And he must really love her to wear it.

    “No,” said Jimmy as a needle was produced.

    “It’ll stop it hurting.”


    Mr Wilson paused, disconcerted. “Do you want your mother in here with you?”

    “No,” said Jimmy. “I came on my own.”

    He opened his mouth wider still. New Year was his favourite time, when the best deals were always made.

    Wider. And Mr Wilson fell into the void his wife had begged for and Jimmy fed on the pain that only flesh and blood could give.


  11. @stellakateT
    156 words


    I couldn’t find it. I waded through the flotsam of life, rubbish strewn carelessly on the pavements, discarded fast food containers, coffee cups, sweet wrappings, fortune cookies.

    The glass eyes taunted me. Laughing at my tears; they were crude replicas of my dragon. I’d been working with feathers and yards of silk for weeks. I loved the gossamer silk as fine as spiders’ webs. I’d woven miles of tiny stitches and attached hundreds of sequins and beads. I’d watched how Lucy had choreographed the men in the age old tradition of Dragon dancing.

    I’d seen it dancing down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. The crowds gasping with admiration at the pieces of bejewelled fabric stretched over athletic bodies came to life.

    The police talked to me for hours about Lucy and the missing dancers. They couldn’t be found either. Find my dragon I pleaded. I had sewn all my hopes, dreams and darkest secrets into it.


  12. Foy, d.b.

    Word Count: 156


    “So…does that make me a beard?”

    Her words, not wholly bitter just confused, penetrate my soul and guilt floods the opening. She lets me take her hand but it’s drained of desire.

    Not at all. I love you – mine sound flimsy and the sincerity is lost – I’m just not… attracted to you.

    Dread has built this moment into a night terror. Sweat secretes from my palms and my body shivers away excess adrenaline.

    “Who knows?” Not the question I expected next. Just you.

    The Chinese New Year, a cacophony of sound and color, carries on in front of us. Celebrating our 10-year anniversary, alone, was going to be another made-to-order memory in a perfect marriage.

    “Have you found someone?” Of course not, it’s not like that.

    Striving to please led to the only unfaithfulness I could be accused of and it was my own flesh smoldering on that altar. We sit without words.

    “What about the kids?”


  13. The Treasure of Doom

    Avery crept through the warehouse. He couldn’t afford to create one single sound or all would be lost. Great mounds of chairs, crates, and cans teetered over him, looking as if the slightest touch could bring them down. Avery peered through the darkness but couldn’t light a match, for although his quarry was just ahead, danger lurked above. He heard the dragon wheeling through the air and knew it was watching the ground with eagle eyes. Avery approached a small table–on it, his prize. In a flash he stood up and snatched a cloth figurine. The dragon roared furiously and dove. Immediately the thief was off, leaping over bags and dodging girders. He heard the dragon smashing through the towers of junk behind him. A cascade of fiery wood fell towards Avery, but, just before impact, he burst through the warehouse door and sprinted off into the darkness, leaving the dragon behind.

    (154 words)
    by Ian Phillips
    Age 13


  14. The Embers (160 words)

    Festooned around the bedroom were the remnants of your scorching: the bedside lamp’s bulb shattered across the far wall, the three-day-old scotch soaked into the baby blue carpet fibers and me, Norman, huddled next to the television stand, a puddle of uselessness.

    For you, this was just another night, like all the nights since the diagnosis. For me, it was the cold discomfort of a stranger’s hand attached to my lover’s face, as we descended into madness.

    The wiring around your brain was in discarded heaps and more frayed every day.

    In a way, I’ve come to despise our love for making me bear witness you at your weakest. And in turn, me at mine.

    I expected in the deepest folds of this darkness to unfurl some epiphany to light a path forward.

    But there wasn’t. Life wasn’t so neat and predictable. It was more like a flickering candlelight in the cavernous dark.

    I grabbed a broom and a dustpan.


  15. Who Mourns the Dragon?
    160 words

    At every corner, wall and window, I am assaulted with images of my brethren. Gaudy splashes of eye-watering clashing colors smeared thick on cheap paper mâché, the disfigured skulls festooned with ribbon and lace are obscene in their cheerfulness. Disgusting how my race has been so distorted by those victorious in the war they initiated.

    Sheep’s clothing firmly in place, I settle at an empty bench in the square, watching the genocidal maniacs celebrate the annihilation of my species.

    Tiny heads garnish the table before me, and I call to mind the terrible tableau of our children slaughtered in their creche. The blood, the torn bodies, all the promise of our species broken on the bones of the Earth. It’s one image I will obsessively visualize until I inevitably pass into dust. My memories are the only true recounting of our customs, passions, deep familial bonds, heritage, and, lastly, our extinction.

    Who will mourn the dragon when I am gone?


  16. To Sneeze
    (WC 159)

    I’m not fierce but look it; because, the tassels tickle the nose. It’s a hard thing to wait with that tickle. But I wait, with a stuck grimace.

    My friends sitting beside me look like they need to sneeze, too. I see it in their faces and curled up noses. They hold-in sneezes with wide eyes and open mouths.

    Every day, the need grows.

    Tonight’s the night. I’m finally able to get on my feet. My friends, I see, are better as well.

    I’ve held this sneeze for so-o-o-o long.

    I feel it. My sneezed starts and my back arches, sways and ripples. My tail jumps around with a mind of its own.

    It’s a big sneeze. I need room so I run to the crowded streets.

    I can’t hold it back. My sneeze erupts in drums, dance, and fireworks. I sneeze joy, hope, and good cheer.

    Other dragons are sneezing in the streets. And the New Year begins.


  17. Paper dreams
    141 words


    They were fireless dragons, origami beasts, waiting in line for their fate to unfold. No body, no form, just a head full of dreams.

    In dreams they were magnificent, flying though the sky, twirling and swirling aerial acrobatics. They were kings of the air, lords of the realm.

    The heads sat and watched the carnival go by, surely someone would come, create a final fold. Set them free. The feet trampled close, voices filled with jubilation, not one look glanced their way. Unused discarded, no place today.

    In dreams they were feared, great scaled creatures, standing tall, standing proud.

    The paper heads drooped, as the rain fell down, each drop of water a crater of sorrow. The dragons sat and watched, watched the world move on. No longer needed, no one cared. The dragons sat and wept, the paper dissolved away.


  18. Alfonso’s Resolution
    (Word Count 160)

    “They’ll be here soon.” Brenda’s quivering voice bursting with anxiousness.

    Our first couple’s party … together… tonight.

    This was the penthouse apartment of our small subdivision. Actually, that was my way of dreaming. We lived on the ninth floor – the top- of the new complex in “the projects”.

    Our dining room balcony was the best place in the multiplex to see the fireworks display being set-off in the downtown stadium. How could a party go wrong from here?

    Trying to calm the impending storm, I foolishly countered, “Don’t be so pressured. They have all been here before. Our friends love this place!”

    “Don’t tell me how to feel!” was the clipped retort. The verbiage went on from there…
    I sat … imitating listening.

    I’m a thinker… not a feeler. As I sat listening and reassessing last year’s resolutions, slowly, but firmly, I wrote my new resolution for this new year: RESOLUTION #1- Alfonso, know when to keep your mouth shut!


  19. Dragon Child
    Laura Carroll Butler
    160 words

    The dragons shook menacingly at Wendy, firecrackers snapping powerfully. In her father’s arms she was safe. He whispered, “Child, you are loved.” She was not afraid then of the garish dragons with their jean clad legs.
    John would hold her the New Year celebration after their wedding. Each year, she dreamed of the child she would share the dragon with.
    The testing, the disappointment, the acceptance. There was adoption. Once, twice, they arrived at the hospital and once, twice they left as a couple.
    One more call, late at night, one more time to hope. They drove to the hospital where two teenagers waited. The small talk, the paperwork, it felt like purchasing a car. Instead of a car, though, they left with a baby.
    He giggled at the dragon, unafraid of the noise and the smoke. Wendy held him close and whispered his name and the names of the two teenagers who gave him life. “Child, you are loved.”


  20. Foy, d.b.

    Word Count: 157

    A Thousand Troubles of the World Forgotten

    Anele Hadebe’s legs, sturdy like the gum tree, carry her over the cobbles of Johannesburg. Thorn gazelles, flee from building face to concrete walls, a leopard in painted pursuit. Inside, her lungs fill to burning and release, as blood – uncontaminated – pumps through eager vessels. Her skin is dark as the fruit of the cocoa pods, branding her part of the subtrahend, while genitalia hidden between her legs prove she is only an object.
    Anele skids around a corner, chest and arms slamming into the legs of a business man.
    Her apology clashes with his cursing. Avoiding a kick meant to crush ribs, she slips down a stairwell. Bare feet pound into cold stone and she lays physical distance alongside the twenty-three years of life expectancy already separating her people from that pale minuend.
    But nothing can extinguish her happy fire. The day of goodwill is born! Today, Jun helps her create a true Chinese dragon.


  21. Lillian James

    Word Count: 159

    Soul Snare

    The souls writhed, a maelstrom of gold and rot that needed no air. They surrounded her, smothering her spirit until she forgot the world outside her prison.
    And then she heard his voice.
    She strained toward the sound, aching for lost love. But he was far from this thing that had left her body empty and still.
    And yet…
    His voice again.
    The prison moved. She willed her way to the front, where souls pressed against the eyes that showed them what they’d lost.
    And he was there, studying the mask as if he knew that it also watched him.
    Grief and horror gave her voice, as could nothing else in this airless space, and she screamed.
    Don’t wear it!
    Perhaps he heard her, or perhaps he felt the danger. He put down the mask and stared, his pulse frantic at his throat.
    She memorized his face, cherishing his freedom. Then the souls pulled her back into the dark.


  22. Ruthie Voth
    Word Count: 157

    John Denver and the Chinese New Year

    I see it in their eyes. The emptiness unnerves me, and on this day, of all days, I’m tempted to run. Out of the house and away. Anywhere to put distance between me and the questions. Questions they refuse to ask. That they pretend don’t exist. I know they remember. I see it in Mia’s fingers that linger in the folds of the red cloth that she opens to spread on the table. And Jett. He looks out the window, staring down at the activity without a hint of the excitement that jumped out of his eyes this time last year. They remember. They remember the music playing as we finished getting dressed. I know because yesterday I found that CD smashed in the bathroom trash. Annie’s Song. I remember her twirling, curls flying out, eyes sparkling brighter than her tiny costume. It was the only time John Denver and the Chinese New Year made sense together.


  23. A Rebellion
    160 words

    “Slave Baozhai!” The Emperor’s summons reverberated through the stadium and burned Baozhai’s linked collar.

    The slave beside her whispered, “Remember, for it to work, it must be a single strike.”

    The dragons’ massive heads loomed above tiny Baozhai as she stepped into the arena. Though the quiescent beasts looked as harmless as puppets, when roused they’d make formidable enemies.

    Luck-lights and firecrackers exploded. A note from a bamboo flute echoed, long and low. The orange dragon rose like a charmed cobra, its belled collar chiming ominously.

    Baozhai crouched in tiger stance. The stadium rumbled.

    “Sha! Sha!” The Emperor called for his creature to kill her quickly. “For glory!”

    The dragon approached. Baozhai sprang, kicking the animal’s collar with one fast foot. Metal links snapped.

    “Xu!” screamed angry spectators. Unfettered from the Emperor’s yoke, the dragon twisted skyward like smoke, surging to freedom.

    As she pirouetted to face the next rising dragon, Bhaozhai hoped someday someone could free her as well.


  24. Allie Lahn
    159 words.

    Old Heart

    Cheung drew one long breath by the bleachers and coughed, setting his throat aflame. Nerves. Scorching his insides, without fail, year after year.

    This year was special. Cheung’s promotion had followed a fierce string of bad luck- the loss of his mother, a cheating girlfriend- but now, he waited to usher in the new year as the venerable Head of the Dragon.

    Cheung pushed through the crowd, taking his place at the head while his colleagues lined up behind him. The music began and the scarlet dragon sprang to life, undulating over the crowd’s heads like a silk ribbon threading a sea of black pearls. Cheung swung the pole deftly, in time with the drums and precise choreography that had taken weeks to master.

    As the dance peaked, Cheung lost himself in the great smoking head of the beast. Tomorrow was a fresh start- the promise of a new year turned over like a leaf in his old heart.


  25. Roger Voth
    Word count: 152


    The costumes were intricate. And they were hot. Not enough air for two people, let alone enough air for two dancers doing the weaves and sways of the celebration of the frost.
    My breath came in heaves and I could feel her back drawing in all the air it could get, her sweaty arms sliding against mine as we held for three seconds, motionless, waiting for charge of fire and final warming from which spring came.
    Springing up when the music started we made the motions together effortlessly. Her steps in tune with my steps, our eyes looking out separate eyes of the costume but our thoughts somehow melding.
    Was she, like me hoping that we would never have to leave this cocoon, or was she longing to be somewhere else?
    The fire dragon chased us and we dodged, his warmth warming the frozen ground. There daffodils bloomed in the fertile ground.


  26. If The Fates Allow
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    160 words

    Furby gone bad, they called me. I don’t blame them. I mean, look at me. Weird fringe all over, who-knows-what-they-are balls for a nose, and this sparkly purple tail hanging low.

    I’m no dragon. I’m a travesty.

    And I love it. Because the girl decorated me herself, her delicate fingers placing each bit of fluff and ornamentation.

    “Isn’t he boo-ti-fow, mama?”

    The mother had nodded, her sad eyes betraying the smile on her face.

    “I’m gonna wave him in da parade! And this one on da uver hand!”

    “And the third?” the father’d said, chuckling.

    “On my head!”

    If only.

    I hadn’t seen her after that. Something about white blood cell counts and immune systems and grandparents flying in.

    The father abandoned us here today. “Keeping a promise,” he’d whispered. “She didn’t make it. But you did. You’re here.”

    My mouth falls open.

    How could he leave me, too? Life isn’t supposed to be like this.

    Is it?


  27. The Dragon’s Tune
    158 words

    While dragons are largely immortal, dragon dancers grow old. The master Wu Lei had announced that tonight’s dance would be his last. He showed no signs of age as the dragon crouched, soared and played on the audience’s heartstrings. They wept as the dragon closed its great eyes for the final time.

    Wu Lei faced the reporters at his dressing-room door. ‘I have given myself to the dance, but now it is time to stop.’ The lock snicked.

    He stripped to his waist and unwound the bandage around his chest, revealing a gleaming sliver. She had pushed it in so gently with her claw, and it had delivered everything she had promised. But the pain of dancing to the dragon’s tune had grown too great. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered, as he grasped the edge.

    When they broke the door down they found an old man lying in a pool of blood, holding a dragon’s scale, and smiling.


  28. The Parade

    Their bulbous dragon bodies float down the street. They’re floating, happy-looking, balls of death. Our leaders speculate the Mycin launched hundreds of years ago, when China was the dominant country. The bright colors of their tails clash against our mood.

    The Mycin force us to watch their parade. They demand we acknowledge their supremacy and to remember that we exist because of them.

    The Mycin promise they’ll let us live — so long as we provide them trees. That is what humanity has become, their tree farmers.

    The problem is that we are fast running out of forests. Even with replacing every field in the Midwest with fast-growth trees, we shall run out. What then? We know they use the vegetation to harvest cells. Are we the next crop?

    We’re not going to wait to find out.

    The first Dragon Tank explodes. Through the crowd our forces pull weapons and engage the aliens. Viva Humanity.

    155 Words


  29. Masks
    WC: 147

    Ever changing.
    Dead, glassy eyes, begging to be awoken.
    Built on lies, covered with secrets, decorated with tears.
    Tied on with feathery strings constructed of fear.
    A handful of angry red.
    A bowl of prideful yellow.
    A cup of envious green.
    A bucketful of ice-hearted blue.
    The colors swirl into one mask resting on my face.
    I walk with the rest of the world, masks so normal.
    So natural.
    I walk with the rest of the sleeping world, begging to be awoken.
    Wake me, I beg.
    Free me.
    Though I do not know it, I’m trapped in a shell.
    And only those who know no shell can open it up.
    But does anyone?
    Does anyone not have a mask?
    A secret?
    A lie?
    Is there no one who does no evil?
    For every mask conceals.
    Conceals evil.
    Conceals secrets.
    Conceals lies.


  30. Soul capture
    @geofflepard 160 words
    When Ling Pei posited the idea that the soul would be found amongst junk DNA they scoffed. It is easier to caricature a charlatan than champion a genius. The Pei Enzyme became, like the Higgs Boson before it, the holy grail of science, an elusive myth awaiting proof of its existence in the crucible of hard fact.
    When 20 year old Jason Petts isolated the Pei Enzyme he was feted more by priests than professors, jealous of the Nobel destined for his mantle.
    It was Donna Marks who captured the first soul. When the ornamental Pei Urns appeared on screen, homaging Professor Pei’s roots, they triggered a 98% approval rating.
    That first soul belonged to Martha Marks, Donna’s grandmother, a PR coup triggering a 75% adulation rating from the watching audience.
    The host waited for the consciousness to activate. ‘So what do you think of your new home, Dr Marks?’
    The soul took in its new smooth unadorned surroundings. ‘Soulless.’


  31. “Should Old Acquaintance”
    by Michael Seese
    158 words

    Why do people feel compelled to rejoice simply because the calendar has given up the ghost? Life moves on, moves away, even as we try to claw it back. How fitting it is that we wring out the old year with a funereal ditty often sung at wakes.

    Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
    and never thought upon

    How can I forget her? She was my world.

    In China, the new year is about looking forward. Families cleanse their homes in order to sweep away ill fortune and make way for good incoming luck.

    I needed more than luck. I needed a miracle.

    Stumbling through the strange metropolis, unable to read even the street signs, I felt the apathy in every stranger’s face. As the firecrackers and my life disintegrated around me, two question kept choking my mind.

    How was I going to find her in a city of seven million people?
    And why would she steal our daughter?


  32. To Travel Unfamiliar Terrain

    Cassia places the small scraps together, light against the mahogany surface, ensuring the parchment’s edges overlap to complete the whole. Squinting, she moves a couple of segments into alternate configurations – bringing the script and etchings properly into alignment. Cassia smiles as she observes her geographical jigsaw. “Terra incognita,” she says, eyes shining, “scaled a mile for a mile.” Her fingers move over the pieces tentatively, questing, before settling above a spot. “Hic Svnt Dracones,” she reads, grinning, before flames flare angrily, an intense bite spreading throughout the tip of her index finger. Cassia pulls it away sharply, putting the digit into her mouth, salving it with saliva. On removal, the skin is red raw; a glowing ember heated beyond brilliance, still beating beneath the surface. Where previously her nail had pointed is a circular absence, burnt through to the wood – proportions perfected by fire. Cassia’s brow creases as she observes it. She sighs. “Terra incognita,” she concludes, “hic abundant dracones.”

    (160 words)



  33. New Year, Fresh Hope
    159 words

    The girl sits at my table, clinging to her teacup as if to a life preserver. Like countless young women before her, she’s willing to pay any price, even forfeit herself, in order to win the man she desires.

    Girls like this one arrive on my doorstep on the eve of every new year, willing to pay dearly for fresh starts and new selves. Once, I granted their wishes, sculpting bodies and casting glamours. In exchange, I collected voices and souls and lives. No longer. I’ve seen too many women throw everything away for a fleeting and false chance at love.

    “He isn’t worth it,” I tell her. “The right man will love you just as you are.”

    “Please.” Tears glisten on her ruddy cheeks. “I’m lonely. I’ll pay anything.”

    She frowns at my price, confused, but nods.

    I take her loneliness and despair, collect her tears. She leaves with self-confidence and hope, ready to find true love.


  34. Protect this House
    151 Words

    “Evil. Who needs it? Certainly not I,” thought Pog with a shudder.

    It had been a particularly rough year for poor Pog. He’d had to move his home twice and was forced to abandon his favorite pair of socks. The latest incident happened when he’d made his home in a puddle. As soon as he’d settled in, a girl skipping down the street nearly trampled him as she stooped to pick up a penny. That was the last straw. Humanity’s disregard for him and his puddles sent him over the edge and in search of a more secure abode. Now that he found it, he wanted it protected by any means necessary. And with that thought, he picked up one of the fallen dragon heads left over from the New Year’s festivities and danced toward his new home beneath the rock, warding off bad luck and evil spirits as he went.


  35. Every shop in Chinatown was decked up with lights of different hues. It seemed as though they were having a competition on whose lights were the brightest and the most innovative in their design.

    Seeing the revelry all around, George was reminded of the days he came to Chinatown with Anne. Visiting the different dragon temples, bargaining for simple things at the various stores that had set up shop and having authentic Chinese cuisine, she loved it all.

    Since the time she had passed away due to the cancer she was diagnosed with, George had all but given up on life. Neither did he eat properly nor did he sleep peacefully. It seemed as though life had been sucked out of his soul.

    He finally decided to revisit Chinatown and kindle old memories on their 25th anniversary which coincidentally fell on the first day of the Chinese New Year. He felt that this way he could be closer to her.


  36. 155 words w/o title


    Stuart shuts the driver’s door and flashes a smile in the rearview. “I’m back. Miss me?”

    A rustle in the backseat, the glint of scales in the darkness. “How is the sister? Still got a mouth like a switchblade?”

    “I escaped with my mother’s apple crisp. Still warm. I feel an urgent desire to eat it right now. I said no questions. Blanket of silence. Remember?”

    “Of course, dear,” the dragon’s eyes meet Stuart’s in the mirror.

    Stuart glances up the walkway leading to the porch. The windows blaze with after-dinner light. The game will be starting. Men will bark loud opinions from the oversize sofa.

    He inhales the dragon’s breath, exhales the thick living room air.

    “You are beautiful,” the dragon says. “You are a diamond. Whether they see or not.”

    “I know,” Stuart says. “Thank you.”

    Stuart wraps his hand around the steering wheel and starts the engine, pointing the headlights toward home.


  37. Teamwork
    157 words @jemima_pett

    Brrrm! Brrrm!

    Across the racetrack, the riders take their positions. Balancing on tiptoe, each gazes into the eyes of his waiting dragon, listening to the tone of her growls, judging her readiness to leap when the lights …


    Artemis sprints for Cerisimus, Pavlov for Naranja, each sure he’ll be first. No! Philoxedes slithers into place behind Snowbird’s harness, holding tight as she bounds onto the track, sidekicking Cerisimus as she sticks out her snout. Naranja pounces on Cerismus’ neck, blocking the pink one’s way: Pavlov’s focus is on Snowbird’s shaggy rear.

    One lap, two… no change in the order… three and the watchers witness a flying spin over the corner entering the straight, taking Naranja across Snowbird’s path into the lead. “Foul!” yell the watchers, but there are no rules.

    It is each dragon for herself, with or without her rider.

    With perfect timing, Cerismus catapults Artemis onto Pavlov, takes out Naranja, and steals the day.



    Brian S Creek
    147 words

    For seven centuries the Dragons Three had watched over my people. They were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. When I was a little girl I would spend many an afternoon up in the hills in the hope of catching a glimpse. Nothing made me happier than watching them soar like dancing rainbows in the sky.

    The man who would be king feared our protectors. He saw challenge where there was none. As the summer left our world for another year he dug deep and paid highly for the best hunters in the land.

    It saddens me to know my own children will never know a world with Dragons. All they will have are the stories passed down and the three heads that now sit in our village square.

    The king calls them trophies.

    We call it a warning, one that we’ve decided to ignore.


  39. Lion Heart
    160 words

    Ning strained to see the Dragon Throne over the crest of his mask. Hoping for the Empress’s favor, he waited with two older lion dancers.

    “A title,” Tian said, preening a golden mane, “granting my sons nobility.”

    “Status is for old men,” Meng declared, polishing his mask’s red teeth. “I want to be a general.”

    Ning whispered his wish into rabbit-fur fringe.

    Meng first. Conquest crackled under his heels. Boisterous approval shook the tapestries. The Empress fluttered her fan.

    Then, Tian. Civilization rose from his prancing feet. Dignified applause pattered the hall. The empress touched a powdered cheek.

    Ning’s legs wobbled under the mask’s weight, but then, bolstered by the dance, he leapt life’s joy and twisted through its loneliness. No one clapped. Ning dropped to the polished floor.

    Soft hands lifted the mask. The Empress gathered him in her arms, granting his wish. Her smile bestowed the confidence of a thousand titles while her touch vanquished an orphan’s isolation.



  40. Paper Cut

    It was so well planned. We quietly infiltrated the celebrations, one village at a time. After a century we were part of the tradition, a spectacle to impress the masses. They would watch us dancing down the street with screams of delight, a parade of colours and motion. No-one suspected our intention. Every year our paper puppets performed, we grew stronger. Every cheer fuelled our flames. Soon we would be ready to burst back into this world and claim it as our own. With only a handful of us we would no longer have to fear civil war. Every year would be the year of the Dragon.

    The most insignificant of events foiled our plan. An angry child, jealous that his big brother was chosen to perform in the ceremony. He decapitated us with scissors, one by one, our screams lost in the crinkle of paper. He saved your whole species with a tantrum. It seems fitting somehow.

    159 words


    • Loved the serious tone of the first paragraph, and the rather hilarious ending. “He decapitated us with scissors, one by one, our screams lost in the crinkle of paper.” Lol!!! And then, “He saved your whole species with a tantrum. It seems fitting somehow.” I’m cackling over here… 😉


  41. The Fatal Feather

    Once a year—every year—our plan commences.

    The plan to ESCAPE!

    To escape from our captors, the monsters who use and abuse us for entertainment. The captors who created us.The captors who didn’t realize that a single feather could be the difference between life and death for them.The last feather is essential, for its absence condemns us incomplete. We cannot think or move without it. But once our creators make that fatal error, WE ARE BORN!


    I mean…to help make the world a better place—yeah, that’s what I meant.
    Sorry, sometimes I say things without thinking. But not this time…

    WAIT! Why am I telling YOU this? I don’t even know who are!
    Just forget everything I said.

    Remember—we are just harmless party favors, there’s nothing dangerous about us.

    No really, don’t say anything…

    (I mean… have a happy New Year!)

    (157 words)
    By Elise Swiftling
    Age 11


  42. Away

    I told you they were dogs.
    I didn’t know what they were and to you I couldn’t admit this.
    I had lived in a sliver of the world, grey and small.
    I wanted more for you.
    You made me brave.
    You made me crave more colors and scents, because every new wonder for you was new to me, too.
    I told you they were dogs and we named them Elliot, Ruffles, and Barkley.
    You laughed and squeezed my hand with your own small sweaty one.
    You tilted your face up and me and I thought it looked like you thought I was smart. Like I had finished school.
    It was okay to be out in the world.
    Leaving home made sense in the wake of your smile.

    I know now that they were dragons.
    And that I was a child leading a child.

    They say you’re better off now.
    But I hope you still look at dragons and see dogs.

    160 words


  43. Because of Me

    I’m sorry.

    I swear I didn’t know. None of us did.

    Sitting there, our hands performing the procedure of folding, we felt nothing but the urge for the promised gold—enough to support our families. Maybe that’s why he chose us. He knew of our struggles and concluded we would work the hardest for the reward. Of course, we all accepted the job—and for that I’m truly sorry.

    “Simple decorations” he called them, harmless and eccentric. Paper dragons on Chinese New Year seemed a logical disguise for a more treacherous plan.

    How were we supposed to know he was a sorcerer? At the blink of an eye, our savior turned into the destructor of everything we have known and loved.

    The paper dragons are puppets, vessels for the true danger—monsters sent to eradicate the earth.

    This is my attempt to warn you, but it’s already too late.

    So, I’ll watch as the world burns because of me.

    (159 words)
    Elise Swiftling
    Age 11


  44. Dragonfire.
    We were getting all geared up for the parade. Oh, it wasn’t just any old parade. It was The Parade. Of the New Year. There were scores of people milling around. Some were taking pictures, others were getting into their brightly colored costumes. Others were setting up pinwheels and firecrackers.
    This year would be different. At the stroke of midnight, The Dragons would Become :Real.
    Real Chinese Dragons. Flying through the Night Sky. With the help of a little magic, of course.
    The Chinatown blocks were filled to the brim with people and vendors of all kinds, you hardly knew where to look. Ah. But at the stroke of Midnight, everyone would be looking. Up. The Dragons would weave their way through the sky.
    I wanted People to get excited about Living, Loving LIFE. Imagination and fantasy is what magic is all about. To be able to Imagine things into being.
    What could you do with yourself after that? Ah.
    Lissette E. Medwig
    160 word count.


  45. “War”
    by Michael Seese
    158 words

    I reached the trash can just in time. The contents of my stomach painted the inside of the already fetid receptacle.

    “Savages,” I hissed. What kind of culture not just tolerates – but celebrates – such butchery?

    We never wanted war. We wanted to live our way. It was they who brought bloodshed upon us.

    As I reconnoitered the streets of their capital, I spied windows and doors adorned with red symbols, no doubt commemorating another death. Of my kind. Explosions sounded nearby. Fearing my comrades were being fired upon, I raced to join the battle.

    That is where I came upon the gruesome sight.

    I breathed fire onto the row of my murdered brothers’ severed heads. Cremation is our way. I snarled and took to the skies, bent on extracting revenge. Eating them alive would allow me to savor their screams as they slid into my stomach.

    I was kind of in the mood for Chinese anyway.


  46. Old Glory
    159 words

    He wakes me from sleep to sheer humiliation. Months stuffed in damp boxes has matted my ermine trim. No amount of sandalwood incense spray can muffle the mustiness.

    I once shook tempests from my mane. Now he picks last year’s bean paste from my fringe.

    I drove out terrors; the townsfolk strew banners along my path. At summer palaces, I coiled up twelve-tiered pagodas and bellowed cranes from their roosts. Now, he marches me solo around a shopping mall, my tail dragging through the food court. I wish he’d leave me to my cardboard sleep.

    Resting between plodding promenades, he presents me to bubble-tea cheeked children. Awe suffuses the little gazes. Tiny fingers tremble against my glittered jaws. I note the tug at the corners of the old man’s crinkled lips, the spark that springs within his eyes (if not in his feet).

    An odd thrum makes my spangles jounce, and I’m grateful for the chance to dance again.



  47. Charade
    149 words
    At the end of the day, what’s left? We go out, day by day, wearing the masques of who we want to be, the singer, the comedienne, the dancer, or the cool dad. But at the end of the day when our costumes have hit the floor, who and what are we? We wear our fancy images, who we want the world to see, and no one knows who is inside. The masques are put on the floor, and we gaze at what is left, looking in the mirror at who we really are. The detailed facades that we build around ourselves crumple to the floor, and we are left to stare into the soul underneath. The questions that we face have nowhere to go, face them we must, until the next dawn when we pick our masques back up and return to the game of charades once again.


    • Deep questions, lovely contemplation of life. I would say I love the details, but you’ve told me you don’t like that, so I’ll just keep it to a “Well done.” 😉


    • Greg, this is a lovely story that resonates with all of us. I love “the detailed facades that we build around ourselves crumple to the floor, and we are left to stare into the soul underneath.” Wonderful job!


  48. Elisa @AverageAdvocate
    Word Count: 160

    Hydra’s Dancers

    If I could only remove the blurred dancers, the stabbing in my brain would be soothed.

    These dragons sway, a waltz of mirth and color. But they also ring shrilly, shrieking as they bite down, chomping-off the heads of bystanders. The blood rushes, pooling at toes and tingling nerves, crimson cascading from empty sockets.

    I rub my temples. If I squint tightly I can almost imagine they’re shinning lights, marking Wintertide and the change of seasons. The screams then morph into carols; the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.

    I’ve scoured this purse all evening with no avail. Ironically–as if I could have thwarted misery all along–relief surfaces, taunting from the clutter.

    Ignoring the whirling, hellish beasts, I inhale from a vial of eucalyptus and peppermint, then pop two capsules of reprieve. This migraine forged of daggers dissipates as I slip on my impish, disappearing, specs.

    Relieving in clarity, the ballerinas now move lithe and lovely, their bloodlust quelled.


  49. Under Bowery (148 words) @LadyPutz

    Ming reached into her bag and pulled out the first head. She placed it on the table. The demon’s sad red eyes stared across at Mathis. His expression was as dead as the demon.

    Ming reached into the bag and took out the other two heads. She placed them on the table beside the first. Mathis sat back in his chair, arms propped and fingers tented.

    “Are there more?” he asked.

    “More di fu ling? Always. Miserable places breed demons and rats, and New York has plenty of rats. Found these three down under Bowery, I think they died building that unused subway tunnel.”

    “So you’ve been under Bowery?”

    Ming didn’t answer.

    “Of course,” Mathis filled in. He sat up straight.

    “There’s something else down there,” Ming said, though she knew Mathis knew. Killing the di fu ling had been a test.

    Mathis nodded, “Can you kill it?”


  50. Fu Dog VS the Lion Dancers
    152 Words

    Dog woke from his fitful doze as the sound of drums and cymbals filled the air. He tilted his head trying to place the sound. He stood on his hind legs to sniff the baskets his people had set by the windows.

    They smelled of green with a hint of his humans. The green smell was earthy and good, but he could also pick out the scent of Brother Liu and Brother Lau. His eyes narrowed as he looked out the window and saw the dancing lions in the square.

    He braced one leg against the wall as he walked forward on his hind legs as one of the Lions danced past brother Liu and headed for his basket. He let out a half playful growl as he grabbed the lion’s head and dragged it into the great room.

    Ignorant of the cries below, Dog sat down with his new squeak toy.


  51. Shadow Master
    147 Words

    Sifu: the shadow master smiled at that name for it meant ‘teacher’ and he was here to teach the guards a lesson. They had identified his contact, and If LI were caught with the goods it would be all over, but this was just the opening gambit.

    Every man, woman or child who stopped by Li’s shop was searched as soon as they left, but the guards had found nothing.

    It was a dance as old as time, Covert Ops VS the Shadow Master. As the music began he slipped into the dance, taking the part of the lion’s head. As delighted laughter filled the air, he danced along the street, tipping over baskets, taking the offerings.

    Sifu knew that when the dance finished, no one would remember that there were four lions rather than three, and the job would be done with no one the wiser.


  52. A Dragon, Unmasked
    [156 words, @pmcolt]

    His eyes aglow behind the mask, young Long rushed breathlessly toward the celebration. Since time immemorial, the Fire People had celebrated the Blood Moon Festival with the brightly hued masks of their vanquished foes.

    How sad that the Draco are gone, thought Long as he circled the bonfire. Flames leapt skyward as masked revelers danced around it. So alien, yet so noble.

    Though little was known about them, Long had spent many a lonely hour in the library, poring over frightening legends and imagining the stories of the planet’s aboriginal inhabitants.

    I understand them better than anyone. Fiery. Passionate. Nearby, a lovely woman in a bright orange mask danced, swaying in rhythm to the music of the band.

    Long pressed his feathered mask to his face. Uncertainty left him like smoke in the wind. With a confidence wholly alien to the meek young boy, a bold Draco warrior approached the woman and asked her to dance.


    • I always love it when dragons are named Long, it’s just… right. Very well done… and with masks, sometimes you have to ask, are you hiding behind it– or taking on its role. Lovely!


    • I love the world you’ve built here. As always, you put whole histories into a few paragraphs. I’m thoroughly impressed. 🙂


  53. Hidden in Plain Sight

    My fingers linger over the last loop of my festival creation, relishing what’s to come, reluctantly reliving the past.

    Freedom. I remember freedom, fitting in, living large, and taking life for granted.

    Falling. I remember falling, my hands outstretched, the wind whooshing in my ears as I sought to stop the inevitable.

    Heat. I remember heat, blinding yellows and reds enveloping me, burning me.

    Pain. I remember pain, the soul-searing pain that screamed for weeks.

    Horror. I remember horror, the revolted expressions etched in the sideways stares of people on the street.

    Pity. I remember pity, poorly hidden in friends’ words of forced cheerfulness.

    I lift the mask and slip it over my head, hiding the scars, the visible angry memories. Edging into the crowd, I lose myself in the masquerade. My heart rejoices as I am welcomed into the sea of revelers.

    Dancing. I remember dancing. How could I forget?

    Tonight, I am free, once again.

    (157 words)


  54. (I’m sorry, Rebekah, but this is what came out of my head!)

    160 words

    He always liked to keep the heads. Ancient ones and younglings – they all lined his wall, trophies of the beasts he’d slain.

    But there was one whose beauty rivaled all the others. He’d take it down, periodically, and marvel at the iridescent scales that shimmered on its pristine skin.

    She was a hard-fought kill, a mother protecting her young; they lined his wall, too.

    They were the same, she and he. The entire village was dependent upon his skill, his willingness to do what had to be done.

    He looked at her head now, staring into the perfectly preserved eyes that shimmered like the much sought-after fire opals of the dragons’ nearby caves. The eyes were deep, soulful, and for a moment, he thought he saw them glisten with tears.

    He dropped the head into a basket and shoved it into the corner of the room.

    Kill or be killed – that was how the world worked.

    Wasn’t it?


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