Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 10

It’s Friday the 13th (of February): a BIG DAY, and I hope everyone has made ample preparation. That’s right; it’s Valentine’s Eve. Time to load up on chocolate, obviously (consider this a mid-year rehearsal for National Chocolate Day, October 28). Hoarding quality chocolate is particularly crucial for those of us in the United States, as we are soon to be deprived of magnificent Cadbury. Please consider this my fiery protest against Hershey’s decision to mangle the Cadbury recipe and sell purple-labeled, sugared wax instead. There. I’ve said my piece, amen.

Nothing new to announce today (oh, HUSH; you needn’t cheer QUITE so loudly!), so I’ll just run through a review of all the fabulous awesomeness going on daily here at the dragons’ lair: 

Monday: Flash! Friday contest results

Tuesday: Spotlight interviews (this week: the second half of our interview with Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan)

Wednesday: writing game w/ photo prompt & unique challenges

Thursday: Sixty Seconds interview with the newest Flash! Friday champ

Friday: the Flash! Friday contest

Saturday/Sunday: community comments on FF stories; occasional Flash Points (story critiques) or original Flash! Friday team writings/posts

WALL OF FLAME: This past week we awarded the Ring of Fire badge to a stunning twenty-two writers. Seriously, y’all, if you haven’t checked out the Wall of Flame, please take a minute to do so. It’s SO COOL getting to meet Flash! Friday writers. How can you earn this badge? Submit a story at Flash! Friday at least three times in a calendar month. Since we kicked off this feature mid-January, more of you may be eligible today (today is the final Friday to count for both January AND February). Details here.




DC2Judging today is Dragon Team One, made up of disturbingly brilliant dragon captains Image Ronin & Joidianne. I tried asking them what they look for in a winning story. “Suspense and intrigue,” said Joidianne in a very cool and creepy kind of way. Image, meanwhile, mumbled something about picking at scabs only a moment before leaping in the air and clicking his heels together. I don’t know exactly where that leaves all you dear dragonwriters. Just know that I’ll be here for the duration, shrieking and shouting and banging kitchen utensils on pots in your honor.          


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

Now, grab your sword (and/or shield, if you’ve got one) and head into the ring.

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) 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 Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.


(1) Required story element (this week: character. The below character must play a central role in your story; please note this character is NOT gender-specific):



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

Kenya kittens

Kenya kittens. CC2.0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith.


528 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 10

  1. Flufficus
    (209 words)

    Dust filled the lungs of the unfortunates as they were herded down the long road to Rome. Weary from heavy chains and shackles weighing down their bodies, they slowly marched towards their end. Those that couldn’t keep up were dragged along until a guard came and unchained them from the line. Their pleas for mercy would go unanswered as sword or spear slipped between their ribs and ended their lives. For most it was a kindness.

    The others would become entertainment for the fickle crowds of Rome. Most would be given a sword and thrust into the arena, only to be slaughtered by experienced gladiators or fed to the beasts. For a few very lucky or skilled men, it would be their path to freedom and glory, paid for by the blood of others.

    Flufficus the cat watched as the men were led to their doom. One of the wretched souls collapsed and was dragged until the guards unshackled him. Bloodied and bruised, the man lay on the ground and awaited his release from suffering. His eyes remained fixed on Flufficus as the spear tip pierced his heart.

    Staring intently at the lifeless body, Flufficus thought, “If only I were a lion in the coliseum, you’d be my lunch.”


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 195

    Sorry, No Breakfast Today, Kids

    The scarred muffins shatter charcoal across the counter as I dump them from the pan. Their blackened tops are cracked; white, mealy breading peers through the fissures.

    I’ve spent an hour and a half waging a losing war,
    Encumbered by heavy odds that thicken as the batter swirls beneath the whisk.
    The range ticks past the required temperature, and all my efforts to forestall it fall short.
    Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt,
    Roil and stir and swirl and shake—
    I throw up a shield to block the flour that explodes in my face,
    spearing the blueberries as they tumble from the box,
    purpling the counter in splashes of dewy blood,
    their stains evidence of the battle that rages in my kitchen.

    Like a mystified kitten, I poke at the recipe,
    batting fluffs of white flour from my nose,
    scrambling after a runaway egg,

    Until at last, the sodden mess slumps into the tins,
    And I turn away to survey the remains of the battle,
    the field of warfare dotted with chocolate-pasted spoons
    and icing-crusted toothpicks.

    I toss my spatula to the counter, where it clatters across the burned muffins
    In a last, ragged, dying gasp.


  3. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 201

    Over the Fence

    The yard next door is empty until your family moves in.
    The “for sale” sign tumbles, and the picket fence whitens.
    Flowers line the porch, and the front windows light at night like laughing eyes.

    The crisp autumn evenings echo with shouts, leathery thumps refracting from the glove on your hand as you pound your fist into it, waiting for your dad to toss the ball.

    The heated steam of summer bakes your bronzed legs. An open book nestles below your shaded eyes while the blazing sun roasts above.

    In winter, your parka fluffs around your pinked cheeks like the warm fuzz of a kitten’s fur, and your blue eyes snap with cold and fun.

    They think they know you, the girl-next-door.
    Button-cute, they say.
    Daddy’s girl, they say.
    Tom-boy, they say.

    They don’t have my vantage point from beyond the fence.
    They don’t see the losing battle where you’re alone in your field,
    Arrayed with useless weapons
    And harmless nets,
    A dull spear
    And a cracked shield.

    The cancer spreads like warm blood,
    Soaking your cells with poison and dulling the warrior’s glint in your eyes,

    So that one day I wake up,
    And the yard next door is empty.


  4. Initiation

    ‘What you waiting for? Do it!’

    The pellet gun’s heavy in my hands, and there’s sweat pooling around my fingers. I stretch them out and resettle them on the trigger, but it doesn’t help.

    ‘You too chicken, man?’ Allen laughs. I can see his crooked teeth.

    ‘Poor widdle baby too afwaid to shoot?’ Dean pulls a face, all big eyes and pouting lips. ‘Poor baby afwaid Mommy’s gonna spank him?’

    ‘Shut up, you guys,’ I mutter. It’s not a smart move. Allen smacks me hard on the arm and steps in close, his breath invading me. I feel the stinging outline of his hand tingling under my skin like a barb. Like I’m in a pit, sides all steep, and there’s a lion coming for my blood.

    ‘You wanted this,’ he whispers. His words leave a wet cloud on my face. ‘Don’t forget that. There’s guys’d kill to be where you’re standing.’

    I blink away. The kitten’s still tied, wide-eyed, too scared to even mewl. Allen fixed the stake down, so it won’t move. The wire’s already cutting into its tiny leg. It knows. I know.


    Time the shot with my heartbeat. I’ve only got one pellet.

    I swing and take out Allen, and then I run.

    208 words


  5. 12 Down: Queue for an iron leader.

    James Arbraith , twenty years a divorce lawyer, was rarely surprised. However, the two words that the woman before him uttered, made him stop thinking about the answer to this morning’s 12 Down and compelled him to lean forward in his chair.

    ‘Russell Crowe?’


    ‘You’re divorcing your husband over Russell Crowe? The actor?’


    Headlines flashed through James’ head; he pictured himself, in front of hungry paparazzi – ‘No comment.’ He’d wear his gold silk tie, the one the woman in that hotel bar said made him look important. Finally, he would be.

    ‘So, you and Mr Crowe are…?’

    ‘Are….? Oh, good God, no!’

    As the sun disappeared behind a cloud, James, resignedly, began scribbling on his yellow pad.

    ‘So, Mrs Wilson, to clarify: Your husband claims ‘Gladiator’ is the best film ever and you maintain it is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. You argued over this to the extent that you now want to divorce him, citing irreconcilable differences.’


    “And, for the record, you have never had any sort of relationship with Russell Crowe?’

    ‘No. Although, despite his reputation, I hear he’s a bit of a pussy-cat. Not gladiatorial at all. So, you never know…’

    It was at that moment, that James’ crossword, rather than his life, was complete.

    210 words


  6. Superbia eunt pro a cado

    ‘So,’ he thought. ‘I’ll never make it into the arena? I am too small, too old to fight? Ha! I’ll show them. See me now, you furcifers!’

    Feles Parvulus flexed his strong legs out to one side, then to the other, exhibiting to his (scant) admirers the beauty of his lithe frame. Defying all odds and with, perhaps, a small slice of good fortune, he had finally been selected for the day’s games. Scuffing away the fear of grisly death, he stalked off toward the roaring crowd, leaving his rivals outwardly seething and inwardly relieved.

    Emerging from the cool, shadowy chambers beneath the Colosseum, the raging sun tore at him as he entered the arena, its blinding rays stronger than fifty swords. Regrettably, for Feles, the sun was not the only predator that tore at him that day. Once, the chosen mascot for the XVI Flavia Firma Legion, it seemed his luck, and that of his gladiatorial master, had run out.

    As he lay beneath Marcus Atilius’ severed torso, bloodied and crushed, his breathing laboured, Feles watched his ninth life soak gently into the scorching sand, the roar of death echoing all around him.

    194 words

    Two this week! None of them terribly serious!


  7. @bex_spence
    200 words

    The fight

    Tears brim, pearls of sorrow gather and I can’t fight anymore, can’t keep up the façade. A surge of pressure and the floodgates open, cascades of salt water stream down my face. Form a pool on the soft fur of your kitten, sat upon my lap.

    You were always the strong one, full of fight. It was you who wrote the well worded letters, petitioned for the community park, always stood up for what was right. You didn’t see this battle coming, had no arena, no chance. Blindsided the delivery truck hit you with an ear wrenching crunch, careened your car into the oncoming traffic, it was instant. No time to fight, no time to breathe, life plucked from you. No goodbyes.

    Face warm and wet, the kitten nuzzles, rough tongue grazes my cheek. His big eyes stare up at me hoping for some recognition. I gather him in my arms; carry him through to the kitchen. Look at the mess, the dregs of grief. Fill his bowl with biscuits and step to the sink, run the water, fill the bowl, step by step normality will return. Plunge my hands into the water, start the clear up, the daily fight.


  8. 205 words
    F. E. Clark – @feclarkart


    Ears ragged and bloody from fighting and flea bites, Davie the big ginger tom cat ruled the farm. He was a legend. He spat and scratched grown men and we kids were warned repeatedly, not to pet him.

    Davie was a real character, once he climbed a 30 foot ladder, true story, I saw him with my own eyes. He went to see get closer to the birds my grandfather said. We just thought it was to show he could.

    I remember this one time, Betty had three kittens, ginger of course – she curled around them in a box of straw, their eyes still blind. We were only allowed to look from the door of the shed, one of them was sickly from the start. Of course I sneaked in more looks between chores.

    One night I went to look again at the kittens, hoping to perhaps pet one. It was dark and the outside lights left more shadows than were comfortable for an eight year old.

    Round the corner of the barn I sneaked. Stopping dead. There in front of me was Davie, emerging from the shed, a rag of ginger fur clenched in his mouth.

    No, I never tried to pet that Davie.


  9. My girlfriend’s father
    204 words

    I jumped off the balcony into the ground and shot out of the yard as fast as I could. The kitty looked startled. I thanked God that it was a cat and not a dog. I walked back home and messaged Priya, ‘What sort of a father is he? With that stick in his hand, he looked like a gladiator.’

    To which Priya sent me back two smiley faces. To hell with all those emojis. I messaged back two angry emojis. But she found it cute. That’s why I loved her.

    The last time, we were walking home together and met the father on the way, he flew into a rage. He pulled her hand from mine and took Priya home. She didn’t even get to introduce me to him.

    It was Priya’s birthday next week. With the gladiator around, I was thinking of ways to meet her and spend the day with her.

    I resolved then that I am not going to play hide-and-seek with the father every time I am with Priya.

    And then I remembered the kitty. He loved cats!

    The next time I went to meet Priya, I went with a cute kitty in a basket and rang the doorbell.


  10. The Legacy
    203 words

    The retired gladiator lived in a hovel at the end of the road with his daughter’s family. Flies swarmed around his putrid, old skin. His daughter, Penelope, left him in a corner sitting on hay all day long.
    His small grandchildren, brown from dirt, laughed as they wove flowers through his thinning hair.

    As he dreamed about his glory days, the clashes of the swords, metal on metal, and the crunch of bones under his feet, the small orange cat crawled onto his lap. The cat was his only comfort, the soft fur soothing against his dry, cracked skin.

    He stroked her day in and day out, as he listened to Penelope yell at her husband and children. She ruled the roost with an iron fist.

    The small orange cat licked the traces of food from the gladiator’s mouth. He had named her Bloodlust.

    Wrinkles formed on his brow as the children ran away from him, leaving a trail of pansies in their wake.

    Penelope was at the stove cooking some terrible gruel, and she yelled obscenities after the children as they ran into the safety of the yard.

    “Bloodie, I’ve left a legacy yet. Penny took after her old man—a gladiator.”


  11. In the blink of an eye


    209 words


    Blink| Slushy darkness punctured by brutal light. Blurs. Muffled sounds. Swaddling. Mamma’s warm milk |Blink

    Blink| The circling bird above the spire. The rejoicing sound of Sunday bells callin’ ‘cross stubble-fields. My Sunday-best fabric twirls in the playful glow of stained-glass light |Blink

    Blink| Christmas. A glittering present box dotted with roughened stab-holes. I see cardboard beyond the sheen façade. Feel the tiny clawing. Hear the softened breath. The purr. The purr. Careful reveal. A kitten. A moment, untainted |Blink

    Blink| I look at George in a different way. No longer the rough and tumble, and girl hates boy, and incomprehension. I am but a gladiator, in love with the lion that comes to kill me. People watch. People warn. A touch of skin. A look. A kiss |Blink

    Blink| Mamma turns to Mum. Turns to Mother. Turns to the hatred of using her real name, Pearl | Blink

    Blink| Perhaps, she smiles from her home of wood beneath buried soil. She was right. So right | Blink

    Blink| Under the nunnery cloisters, a lifetime ago, I married God. My silent friend and invisible protector. We waged the war. Love, kindness and compassion. I am so tired. Tired. Now, a final smile. I get to meet my love |Blink


  12. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre


    208 words


    Always the same.

    I should’ve prepared. It’s not like they didn’t tell me. As soon as the turkey curry repeated on me, they were festooning the shops with the gaudy red, the hearts and the semi-naked cupids. Get ready, Clive, they shouted.

    Yet, I waited.

    Maybe I’m a visionary. A modern-day James Dean, fighting the unfair commerciality of love. Only more chunky. Only more unconventionally handsome. A rebel without a Paws.

    Paws. Oh, how she mocks me. Her cutesy kitten fluff-body, wrapped in oh-too-big eyes that look like an all-night nineties raver on one too many E’s and caffeine tabs.

    The purrfect Valentine’s gift. So the adverts say. She wants one. I don’t know why. But what chance have I? I should’ve basked in the warmth of the e-store and their smiley-box deliveries.

    And now, a gladiator of the malls, a stalker of the aisles. In the annual St. Valentine’s Day massacre, my only weapons are my phone and my don’t **** with me eyes. But, it’s too late.

    Maybe, I’ll just get her nothing. My love for her should be enough.


    I’ll express my love in the form of word. For I was once a childhood poet. A Haiku. In one of those rainbow cards.



  13. “A rebel without a Paws” – brilliant.

    I can always rely on someone at Flash Friday to brighten up my work day.

    I’m so glad that the wife and I agreed early on to ignore this occasion. Like Christmas and Birthdays aren’t stressful enough already.


  14. Nine Lives

    The hulking men stood opposite each other in the dusty corridor. Each stared with a deep ferocity, eyeing up their opponents, deciding who posed the greatest threat. In turn their gaze fell upon the quivering wreck in the corner, all skin and bones, a pathetic dagger hanging limply by his side, urine staining the ground beneath him. They sneered and moved on.

    Moments after the emperor declared it, the games began and the gladiators charged, hoping to deal the killing blow. The coward ran straight for the corner.

    There was grunting and screaming. Severed limbs lay twitching, still eager to fight. Finally the victor raised his bloody sword, awaiting the applause. The crowd reminded him he was not the last, one more remained. The brute strode over, keen to claim his prize. He raised his sword to strike the deadly blow, but he hesitated when he saw those tear filled green eyes. It was just enough time. As he brought the blade down with all his might, the target rolled nimbly away, jumped up onto the wall and somersaulted over the giants head, slitting his throat in the process. As the man gargled his last breath, Kittenus Maximus raised his dagger in victory. Nine lives were lost, but his remained.

    210 words


  15. The Gladiator.
    @CliveNewnham – 210 words

    He hefted the hammer, felt its weight…

    In that last fight he’d swung too wildly, had overbalanced, missed his foe. He’d had to scramble desperately through the dust to avoid the sword. In the light the crowd had cheered, had laughed, laughed! Bayed for his blood, his.

    But like all the other fighters that had gone before, he wasn’t tough enough; not quick enough; had allowed him to recover.

    You had to bide your time; not rush. It wasn’t the iron that killed you. It was haste, exhaustion; and in that day’s heat they hadn’t lasted long. He had bided his time circling, parrying, until there was only the one left; the one grinning in the light, smelling another day.

    He’d crouched before that last opponent, met him, mirrored him eyeball to eyeball, waited for the blood rush, stepped aside and swung.

    The eagles had screamed, the lions roared, and he had used his opponent’s sword…

    In the gloom he brought the hammer down on the iron pin, with venom, felt it penetrate and shoot in, one strike, enough. He lay the hammer down and pulled the pin out, examined the hole before threading his necklace string into it, through the nail, adding another opponent’s severed thumb to his talisman.


  16. Ginger Nut

    His claws pointed like sharpened swords. I need a bleeding shield. Trust me to get a nutter of a kitten. Every chance he gets he lunges at me, whether I’m supplying food or chastising.

    I am at the moment ensconced in my bathroom, terrified as the door is being speared and scratched. Held captive by a ball of fluff, how ridiculous, he hears the ping of the doorbell and he’s gone for fresh meat. I dash for my bedroom and safety, whoever’s at the door can fend for them selves.

    It is with regret that I pen this advertisement but needs must.


    Have you got a budding gladiator ready to take on a new contestant, or are you a cat whisperer. I’m sure this little fella will be content and docile in the right hands, but we just don’t get on. He’s full pedigree, I have got his papers and he is yours for free, I REPEAT FREE my number is 1800 966 777 free phone. If this not agreeable I will pay you what I paid for him which is €250. P.S. He is spayed which he’s probably not forgiven me for, and I should not have called him Ninja.

    205 words


  17. Gladiator
    (210 words)

    He came to her in the cover of night. And as the last remnants of light fade, she knew she shouldn’t let him stay.

    “You have to go.”

    He looks back at her with beseeching eyes. Silently pleading that she changes her mind.

    “No. Don’t look at me like that. I have made up my mind. You have to be strong and brave like a gladiator. You can survive without me.”

    She walks away and willed herself to not look back. And as tears glide down her face, she is surprised by the ache in her heart.

    Suddenly a piercing cry filled the night. And she realized he is fighting off a group of bullies who think him weak just because he is alone.

    She ran as fast as she can to save him but just before she could get to him, it was all over.

    True to her advise, he fought off the bullies with a fierceness that only a true gladiator possesses.

    She holds him in her arm and hugs him tight.

    And as she walks toward her makeshift bed at the corner of the abandoned building, she held on to him like he is the most precious thing in the world. He is hers. Her gladiator.



  18. Carpe Cattus
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    208 words

    I will not go gently into that good cage.

    My ancestors were revered in ancient Egypt. In Rome, they threw you to my cousins. In Europe, we made you believe the crazy ladies who hoarded us had magical powers.

    We’ve kept the rodent population down for years. You think it serves you. We think of it as lunch.

    Now you come at me, all “Here, kitty kitty,” shaking that treat bag.

    You plied me with scratching posts, seduced me with chunks of tuna in gravy, hypnotized me with your brushing of my fur.

    But I see you for what you really are now. You are evil.

    You want to take me to that horrible place, the one with my wailing brethren and, worse of all, DOGS.

    You want to let that “doctor” cut off all that makes me who I am, to prevent me from fathering kittens of my own.

    I’ll fight tooth and nail to prevent this injustice.

    No longer shall I knead your lap for you. No longer shall I make the noises you enjoy. No longer shall I serve to warm your feet in bed.

    For I am a lion, the gladiator of my species.

    And I will not go gently into that good cage.


  19. The Fabulous Profession,

    I live a charmed life. When I’m performing, the ladies proclaim their love for me and everyone cheers me.

    I do calisthenics to force my muscles to pop out. Then I prep my outfit in the mirror: Mask, ears, and tail.

    “I’m fighting this cat thing? This is an insult,” the other gladiator screams at his owner. He’s a boorish secutores holding his gladius and shield. My whip and trident are much more glamorous.

    “That cat is a killer. Don’t let his stupid outfit fool you.”

    I tie on my cute paw sandal covers.

    “Look at this freak. What if he won? I don’t fear death, but that’s a demise you’re taunted for in hell.”

    I pull on my adorable gloves–cat paws–naturally.

    “Five minutes,” the marshal shouts.

    I take my place on the platform that will raise us into the arena.

    The other gladiator is steaming. “I’m going to eviscerate you and throw your paws into the stands. You’re going to pay for embarrassing me like this.”

    The trapdoor opens and we rise into the cheers. I throw my hands in the air in acknowledgement. This is my element. “You think this is embarrassing? Wait until I drag your corpse in front of the emperor as a gift.”

    210 words


  20. Resisted Development

    She lives beneath the shadows of steel and glass in an enclave of mahogany and chintz. In chambers her colleagues called her The Amazon, but never to her face. In the courtroom she was never swayed by sob or circumstance, and her tally of win versus loss bowed severely to one side.

    Then Progress arrived on her doorstop. She fought it in the circus she knew so well, with weapons worn to the shape of her hands. Progress limped away with a sore behind, but even she couldn’t stand in its way for long.

    By night she scoured precedent, and then by day. Her win loss tally straightened its crooked back then bowed the other way. She was asked to leave chambers (“you’re becoming obsessed”). Still, Progress inched towards her house.

    First her husband (“well I don’t want to live here”) then her friends (“hi, me again, call me back”) renounced her, till all she had was her house, her cat and her cause.

    At last Progress capitulated and her little house was saved. On warm evenings she sits on her porch with a bottle of gin and toasts her victory. In a yellow legal pad she tallies the cars passing by, and calls out the name of her cat.

    210 words


  21. Repose
    Kenya kittens. CC2.0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith.
    Kenya kittens. CC2.0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith.

    Xiang Min Heulwen lay sprawled across the grass with one arm crooked under her head, her free hand shading her eyes against the sun, a warm breeze caressing her face and tousling stray wisps of hair.

    Her eyes opened slightly as she heard the tinkle of a little bell, then closed again languidly as soft velvet brushed against her cheek and loud purring filled the air. “Felix…” she murmured as the young feline made another pass. She felt the furry muzzle pause beside her ear then she heard the cat whisper gently.

    “No, not Felix my dear.”

    Her eyes flashed wide open. “Rasputin!”

    “I told you it was no good shifting to another dimension, nobody ever escapes me.”

    “Bastard!” she screeched, raising her head and shoulders off the ground, then collapsing again.

    “Oh, are you trying to move? I’m afraid that will be impossible, I used quite a potent toxin on you just now.”

    Her mind flashed an image of the cat licking her face. “B..b…bu…” she stammered, saliva pooling under her tongue and dribbling out of the corner of her mouth.

    The cat chuckled softly. “Goodbye, Gladiator Heulwen.”

    Her disbelief and frustration faded into incoherent rage as she slowly lost consciousness.
    202 words


  22. @colin_d_smith
    207 words

    The beast could smell the fear even before he saw his prey. Maximus felt its eyes following his every step. This creature may be young, but its instinct for survival was honed and deadly.

    And it was still hungry.

    Maximus kept to the shadows, moving from cover to cover. He passed the decapitated remains of Spartacus. His stomach lurched. Then he saw the exit.

    The beast crouched. Maximus’ heart thumped in his throat pumping fear throughout his body. He wanted to run but his legs wouldn’t move. The beast’s hind quarters shuddered. Its eyes narrowed.

    Then he pounced.

    Maximus ran. He felt a paw graze his back. The exit point was so close. Then a tug. The beast had caught his tail.

    No! No!

    The whole of the kitchen coliseum flashed around him in panorama as he sailed into the air.
    Maximus braced himself. He hit the floor hard, his head spinning. The beast approached cautiously, paw raised. Maximus waited until the last moment, then ran.

    A shadow towered over him, but he dared not look around. The gap under the cupboard was three seconds away.

    Suddenly the world exploded in light.

    “Commodus, what are you doing?” The voice was human.

    As was the scream that followed.


  23. words 204

    Sun cracked pavement soaks up fun like the rain before it. A shadow from the bushes sends me scampering faster than a bullet. A crazy haphazard jellied bullet but still a true bullet.

    My name is Spartacat. My owners think they are clever as cats for coming up with that, I let them think it. It suits me. They feed me and scratch behind my ears, saying things like, “Aw, he’s cute. Look at him chasing his own tail.” They think I’m stupid and I sink in, purring and scratch their knees.

    “He’s hurting!” squeals the human child, flinging me to his humongous adult like a piping hot potato.
    I don’t mind, I smile and pretend some kind of affection but I really don’t care for any of them. I just have to wait for the nights, when I can search by light of the moon and the sound of scratching that comes from under the ground, for prey.

    Hunting is my main interest. It is who I am. Fights too, it’s my territory, my prerogative, to protect my ground. Lister, the huge fat grey tom chewed my ears off last time but I am getting bigger. He’ll soon regret crossing me. I am his nemesis! I am Spartacat!


  24. Beastly

    Eyes that sear into his soul causing pain his goal. He laid her on the table and began his cruel games. A nip here, a tuck there, never enough to kill, not yet anyway, he likes to have fun first.

    He sedated her enough that she would stay, incapable of flight, but she flinches now and again which is where he gets his thrill. His punishments are meted out by his costume of the day and today he’s dressed as a gladiator toying and tormenting his prey.

    This little kitten is a fighter, stronger than he thought, already on death row with a cruel disease. When he cut her ear she yelped and bit he knocked her out but she had already implanted her revenge.

    She infected him with Q fever which causes in most cases mild uncomfortable symptoms for humans but with a diseased heart like his proved fatal as in rare cases can cause swelling.

    His mother found him on the ground, her sleeping tablets by his feet. He smiles as he watches her cry it was her abuse that made him the way he was. She didn’t know about his heart disease but she pierced it daily.

    word count 200


  25. Death Cats
    209 words

    Two entered the arena. Only one would come out.

    Little Fuzz, reigning gladiator, paced the ring. She suffered no anxiety. Known for her monumental defeats of Mr. Kool, maine coon of epic proportions, and Harley the Tuxedo, Bane of Mousies, Little Fuzz stalked with the confidence of the undefeated. Who dared test her?

    The new gladiator on the other side of the turf was an unknown, a young cat from no particular clan. Her scruffy ginger fur had not been groomed, and her crazed green eyes warned of intoxication by catnip. Purrs had said the challenger had feral blood, perhaps a taint of bobcat running in her veins.
    Little Fuzz bared her teeth and clawed the dirt in her signature menace, puffing the fur on her back.

    The ginger cat sprang, swiping Little Fuzz across the snout and taking her into a roll. The cats tumbled, fast as lightning, tails lashing, teeth gnashing.

    To the death, so went the gladiator’s pledge.

    In moments Little Fuzz had the interloper pinned.

    But the ginger twisted free, raking Fuzz’s back to draw first blood. Then the ginger sank her curved teeth deep into Little Fuzz’s neck.

    As her vision faded, Little Fuzz saw only those wide green eyes, full of manic triumph.


  26. Heart of a Gladiator
    205 Words

    Stanith poked the food around on his tray. Swallowing hard, he broke off a piece of fish and tossed it onto the floor.

    Nothing. Stanith looked around his empty cell and made a low kissing noise. His shoulders relaxed when Bumble came lurking around the corned and pounced on the scrap of fish.

    Stanith set his tray aside and lumbered over to the kitten. Bumble rolled on his side stretching and letting out a delicate meow.

    “You’re a demanding little thing today.” Stanith’s knees cracked as he lowered himself enough to scratch Bumble’s matted underbelly. “You know what fish means. We got a water battle today.”

    He stroked the delicate body of the kitten, not quite able to feel the soft texture under all of the callouses on his hands. “Might be the last fish I get to share. You know I sink like a stone in that water.”

    The bang of the cell door opening sent Bumble scrambling under the elevated wood plank that served as Stanith’s bed.

    Ducking his head under the plank, Stanith scooped Bumble up and set him on the tray with the fish.

    “Eat up little man.” Stanith rubbed Bumble’s chin and walked out of the cell chest held high.


  27. The Champion
    199 words

    Old Tom was the champion of the neighborhood. How many mice decapitated? How many birds unflown? How many tabby girls with golden eyes admired him in his fine gray prime? Now he has his afternoons, sleeping in the sun.

    Evening comes, he yawns and stretches, smells the warm rain. Spring was coming, he could feel it in his bones. His bones had once leaped fences, pulled down birds in flight. Once, he defied all forms of gravity without a second thought. He had to be more careful, now. These days, it wasn’t worth the trouble.

    Tonight, he would meet the challenger. This black-and-white stranger was looking for a fight. He was a handsome young one, lithe and sleek.

    There would be a meeting in the arena of the alley. To the winner, glory. To the other, second place. Let the face-off begin! The lady cats looked out from their lighted windows. The little mice cowered in the compost piles. Old Tom stood his ground, unmoving as the other tensed, puffed up with the need to prove himself. Old Tom flicked his tail. It’s all yours, kid. The young one yowled defiance as Old Tom walked away. The champion, undefeated.


  28. A Point of View
    (196 words)

    Dear Roman Empire Productions,
    I am writing to you to voice my concerns regarding one of your Gladiators. I am fully aware that your Arena Policy is somewhat broad. Messages regarding strong use of violence, sexual content and obscene language perhaps go some way to alerting the more sensitive spectator to your proposed content. However, what I witnessed at the last meet was unacceptable and could not have been expected by any citizen of healthy mind or appetites.
    I was nothing short of appalled when one of your Gladiators began singing, what I believe, young Romans refer to as a Ballad of Power. Surely the Arena should be a sacred place! I, and other self-respecting Romans, have no interest in whether this fellow has a broken heart, a girlfriend far from here, or if, indeed, his love hurts. Instead I want to hear the victory roar of Big Cats and the clang of swords on heavy metal.
    It’s definitely a thumbs down from me. In the interests of good taste and to protect the sanctity of the Arena I will certainly be ensuring that I do indeed switch venues.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Feared
    (210 words)

    I have always been feared.

    As a young man, the legion made me strong, fast and sharp of mind. Fighting the Visigoths brought out the soldier in me. Watching my friends fall in the northern forests brought out the savage in me. Eventually I grew tired of the wars with the barbarians; I needed more than sporadic combat. I would never be feared and respected hidden behind a wall of shields.

    I never thought that desertion would bring me the life I wanted.

    Captured by the legion, it would be my fate to fight in the coliseum. What a glorious fate it turned out to be. I was slated to die in my first fight, but the savage prevailed. The savage prevailed again and again, over man and beast. The crowd loved me and I loved being feared.

    With my freedom won and my life dwindling before me, I asked the gods for a favor. I asked to be feared once again in my next life.

    I never thought I’d return to the world as a soft ball of fur. I live now as a wretched creature, to be cuddled by weak children and fawned over, only to be feared by mice.

    The gods have a cruel sense of humor.


  30. May Mella Save Me

    She stares at the dogs. They drool and paw the ground. Mella grinsl. Just a whisper of whiskers visible from beneath her tangerine tricorn hat.
    She tires of their antics. A slight marmalade paw shoots out, claws extended, and the dogs turn and run.
    Mella falls on to her side and lounges in the sunbeams. A line of tiny mice in candy colored pinafores appears. Each holds a morsel for Mella to enjoy. A bite of fresh tuna, a nugget of French cheese, a tiny orb of marzipan. It is a symphony of movement as each mouse presents the treat to the lounging Mella then scurries away, most likely to return to their knitting.
    Mella stretches, ever limb becoming a taut wire before melting back into fluffy curves and angles.
    She takes off her hat, places it gently to the side and curls into a nap.

    I sigh as I gaze out the window.
    “Miss Harriet, I assume you are contemplating your answer to the equation on the board,” snaps the factual voice from the front of the room.
    “Yes, Mrs. Mull,” I say.
    I imagine that tomorrow Mella’s adventures will include her championing on behalf of imaginative little girls everywhere by leaving a dead toad on Mrs. Mull’s desk.

    210 words


  31. Gladiators Do Not
    208 words

    A lot of rumours go around about gladiators, and the thing is, most of them aren’t true. Yes, we’re ruthless killers, but it’s not like we murder people in our spare time. There are rules. Thumbs-down means you gotta kill the guy, or they’re gonna kill you. Better him/her/it than me, that’s what I say, especially when the opponent’s a big old bear. I hate bears.

    I’m gonna address some of those rumours and you write it on your little notepad there and put it in your paper, okay? This tradition’s been back a hundred years or so and people ought to know us by now.

    Gladiators have a code. We have to maintain a certain amount of “physical wellness”, but that’s up to your own…I mean, trainer. There’s no slavery in spite of what I almost just said, got it? No masters, no slaves, just good old killing fun. The trainers never starve anybody…unless they deserve it, haha!

    Oh, and the last thing – we don’t hurt kittens. We don’t sacrifice adorable baby animals to the gods or eat their hearts or whatever. I mean, if the gods required an animal, I’d sacrifice a bear, but not a little kitty. Okay?

    Thanks for the interview. Enjoy the show.


  32. The strange death of Mervin Thomas

    @geofflepard 210 words

    When the careers master, a man of sulphurous halitosis and infinite pomposity put him on the spot, Mervin Thomas said, ‘Plumber’. And off to plumb he went.
    At weekends, Mervin wrestled, glorying in his Andean biceps, while on weekdays Mervin fought truculent copper bending it to his will, creating a beauteous cartography of pipework. Mervin was a gladiator amongst contractors.
    Mervin had one idiosyncrasy. True joy, for Mervin, was achieved when, alone, he would strip away the tawdry weeds of the humdrum handyman and attack a leaking tap or a faulty fawcett clad only in his tool belt and a grim determination.
    Mervin’s demise came one Saturday afternoon. His challenge was a mere dripping u-bend. He disrobed, squeezing head and shoulders into the cupboard beneath the sink.
    While Mervin worked, luxuriating in his naturism, Fluffikins entered the kitchen. Mervin’s enormous bulk blocked her way to her bowl. Stealthily Fluffikins approached, claws out, mesmerised by the tick-tock of Mervin’s pendulous penis.
    Everyone was stumped. The welt on Mervin’s head suggested a psychopathic manic. His nudity indicated a bizarre sexual component to the crime. No one saw the blood on the cupboard frame. Only one junior forensic employee noticed the line of scratches on Mervin’s manhood. And nobody thought to ask Fluffikins.


  33. Treasure

    “What you looking at?”
    “Did you buy tickets?”
    That was roared at me from this fine gentleman trying to dump
    I thought it was just ordinary rubbish but he was being too protective of it
    whatever it was, moved
    I couldn’t move, I was rooted to the spot
    he could roar all he liked
    but I wasn’t going anywhere, I couldn’t

    He looked at me with an evil grin
    and dropped his bundle in the bin, then with an ignorant shrug
    went on his way, I think I actually heard him whistle

    I rushed over
    and gently picked up this man’s rubbish
    I unwrapped it
    it was a beautiful little kitten,
    a tiny scrap of a thing

    It wasn’t moving now
    no sound emitting
    I massaged its little chest
    urging it on with every thing I had
    A tiny little rise
    Yes, I can do this

    It slowly opened its eyes
    took deep racking breaths
    its little body spasmed
    then blessed relief
    its breathing no longer laboured
    a most wondrous thing
    like a baby’s first cry
    a miaow, barely audible
    music to my ears
    rising to a fantastic ear-busting, heartwarming crescendo

    She’s lived to fight many a day
    I called her Hope
    One man’s rubbish is now my treasure

    word count 210

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Trouble – A True Story – 209 words

    How does one describe the bond created between pets and their humans?

    I first met Trouble at a rest stop in Colorado. Battered, broken and half starved, she stole my heart immediately. I hauled her to California. A vet there did his best but did not offer much hope. She and I flew back to Maine. There was no problem locating her at baggage claim, her distinctive yowling guided me right to her. Upon picking her up, she purred and began nursing on my neck.

    After she had convalesced and the bandages came off, we took stock of her healed condition. She walked with a limp and her fractured jaw had not healed straight, forever giving her the ugliest mug in Cat-dom.

    We need not have worried about her inclusion into the dynamic of the rest of the cat crew. She took control immediately and ruled with a firm paw. Whatever she faced now was a cakewalk compared to what she had been through as a kitten. The other cats gave her wide berth unless invited into her world. She always laid her kills at my feet. And even at age 17, she was still nursing on my neck.

    She was a gladiator who survived. Damn, I miss her.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. @betsystreeter
    205 words w/o title


    Heavy rain washes down the windows in sheets.

    Lacy stares out at the colored car blobs in the parking lot. Reflected water speckles one side of her face. Her coffee sits untouched.

    “Look, I’m here to fight for you. You tell me what you want, I go do battle and make it happen. That’s my job, Lacy.”

    Steve straightens his silverware on the formica. His briefcase sits unopened on the vinyl bench next to him.

    “I’m sorry he left, Lacy.”

    Steve waits. His sister says nothing. He signals for a refill.

    “I want the kitten,” Lacy says.

    “What? Okay, that’s a start,” Steve says. “What about the apartment? Maybe let’s start with the big stuff…”

    “I want the kitten,” Lacy says. “That’s it.”

    Steve straightens his tie and leans in on his elbows. Sis, I know this hurts. And you want it over. But the apartment…”

    Lacy looks straight at her brother. “Steven, it’s time to start over. The apartment, the furniture, that’s the past. The kitten has a future. I want the kitten.”

    Steve shrugs. “Okay then, as your lawyer, I shall get you the kitten.” He taps his coffee mug against hers.

    The rain lessens and the window begins to clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Misunderstandings

    Beneath the stars on a moonless night, a tiny village crouched in the shadow of a towering mountain. A trembling young woman stood lashed to a post safely beyond the cluster of cottages, weeping.

    When the dragon came, alighting on the ground with a rumble, the villagers huddled close together behind their walls. All covered their ears against the screams, except one small boy who slipped from his cottage on swift feet.

    His mother’s wails followed him as he ran to stand between dragon and woman, hands on his hips and chest thrust forward. “Stop.”

    The dragon snorted, smoke billowing. “This is the bargain. Stand aside.”

    “You,” the boy jabbed a finger at the dragon, “didn’t make the bargain.”

    The dragon blinked. “No. It has simply always been.”

    “Why do dragons hate people?”

    “We do not. You send warriors to kill us. The bargain is our protection. Why do people hate dragons?”

    “Because dragons eat people,” an angry voice yelled from the cottages. “We have to defend ourselves.”

    The dragon cocked her head. “No. Human meat disgusts us.”

    Silence fell.

    After a moment, the boy said, “No one knows why the bargain was made. Why not call it off?”

    “Indeed.” The dragon chuckled, causing the ground to shudder. “Why not?”

    210 words

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Of Mice and Men
    “Kitten again?”

    “We’re lucky to have found this one. With the war on, there’s no decent food to be found.”

    “Pah. There isn’t even enough meat on that one for me, much less you. You, who should be dining on lion with Senators, reduced to scavenging in the streets.”

    “I’ll make stock from the bones, and there’s some dried turnips in my pack. I’ll be fine. And you know there’s no Senate anymore, Grandpa. Not since the rebellion.”

    “Ungrateful peasants. If I was your age, I’d grab my sword and show them what I thought of them. They used to run in fear from me, you know.”

    “I know, Grandpa.”

    “It got so they had to put four, five – one time, even six – in there with me, or it wasn’t a fair fight.”
    “I remember, Grandpa.”

    “Do you now? How do you remember, you pup? You wouldn’t have been let in at your age.”

    “You used to sneak me in, Grandpa. Said I was small for my age. They didn’t believe it, but no one questioned you.”

    “Ha. They wouldn’t have. And look at me now. And you – reduced to eating kitten broth.”

    “I know, Grandpa. Eat up, now. They’re sure to find us if we don’t move again soon.”

    210 words


  38. Preparing for Combat

    202 words

    The late afternoon sun hovered atop the amphitheater wall and shone into the eyes of Consul Quintus. He lifted a hand for shade and turned to his aide. “Are we nearly finished?” he asked.
    “The evening fights commence when the sun falls below the rim.”
    Quintus groaned. “Gladiatrices. It’s bad enough watching these lumps batter each other. Do I really need to watch women doing the same?”
    “It would be impolite to depart before the main entertainment starts. Governor Catulus would take it as a personal slight.”
    Quintus looked at his host. He was eating honeyed dates, and had been all afternoon. His jowls glistened where he’d wiped his chin.
    “I have seldom met a man so inaptly named,” Quintus said. “If all kittens behaved as he, there would be no cats to catch rats.”
    In the arena another bout ended. Slaves dragged the fallen gladiator away and sprinkled fresh sand over the blood he left behind.
    A hush fell. The Governor climbed to his feet. “Bring ‘em in!” he yelled.
    The crowd cheered wildly.
    Quintus stood politely to acclaim the warriors. “When I get back to Rome,” he told his aide, “I’m going to have Catulus audited. That’ll pull his claws.”



  39. Cat Flap
    203 words

    “The situation is very serious,” said Chief O’Hara. “She’s flooded Gotham with cats.”

    “Who has?” asked the Gladiator.

    “Why, Catwoman, of course,” said O’Hara.

    “Oh,” said the Gladiator. “I always wondered why she was called that.”

    O’Hara sighed. There were many shining stars in the galaxy of Superheroes, but, in every meaning of the phrase, the Gladiator was not the brightest.

    His chariot was outpaced in every car chase. His, well, skirt would flop over his face if he had to dangle from tall buildings. His metal breast-plate was prone to picking up Radio Luxembourg, and to being struck by lightning.

    He couldn’t even creep up on evildoers, because his sandals flapped when he walked.

    On the other hand, Gotham’s villains tended to employ staff whose sole talent was the ability to spell “thwack” in actual air quotes when thumped, so O’Hara was hoping for the best.

    “Just round up all the cats,” he said.

    “Don’t worry,” said the Gladiator. “I’ll catch them all in my net.” He stood to leave. “Er, if I can ask,” he said. “Why have you given me this job instead of, you know, him?”

    O’Hara pointed out the window. “It’s daylight,” he said. “The Bat-signal doesn’t work.”



    Brian S Creek
    208 words

    Ignoring the pain, I tear the F.R.Y. collar from around my neck and feel the soft embrace of freedom. I have missed it.

    The audience cheer as they realise in unison that they are about to witness the show’s greatest episode.

    The arena’s alarm kicks in, blanketing everything in red and screeching like a chicken being raped. Security guards flood through the exits. Their mistake is thinking I want to escape. But I cannot be free while one man still breathes. Tonight I have a date with Marcus Denton; my warden, my torturer, my nemesis.

    Security continues to try and put me down as I make my way level by level towards Marcus’s office which overlooks the arena. The fools are no match for me. I am a man broken and reforged in combat, all for the world’s entertainment. They are nothing more than ragdolls.

    I reach the office with only superficial wounds and a flaring temper. Behind his desk, Marcus sits cool as a cucumber. He holds up a remote control and presses the button.

    Images of kittens fill every screen on his office wall. My anger rapidly subsides and I sit down on the office floor feeling nothing but happiness.

    I close my eyes and sleep.

    Liked by 1 person


    Brian S Creek
    209 words

    “I’ll be a laughing stock,” said the Pit Master.

    “You’ll be rich,” I assured him.

    “How did I let you talk me into this side show?”

    We looked across to the centre of the dusty arena where a single gladiator sized up his opponent; a fluffy kitten. The gladiator wore a bronze mask and held his trident aimed down at the animal.

    The kitten meowed.

    “The Caesar will hang my head from the city walls,” said the Pit Master.

    The gladiator circled the kitten, thrusting his trident in jest as the crowd laughed.

    “You’ve heard of Carpophores?” I said.

    “Of course.”

    “A fearsome gladiator, famed for fighting beast instead of man. I once heard he took down a rhinoceros with just a spear.”

    “Fascinating,” said the Pit Master.

    “After he died he was punished for his crimes against the animal kingdom. Would you like to know what the Gods decided to do with him?”

    The Pit Master shrugged.

    “They reincarnated him as the cutest, most harmless animal to walk the land.”

    As if on cue, the kitten leapt onto the trident, ran up the gladiators arm and slashed his throat wide open. The crowd fell silent.

    I leant closer to the Pit Master. “Like I said, you’ll be rich.”


  42. Cat Fight
    210 words

    For years Tinius Manius had been the star of the Coliseum, but over the past few months it had all gone wrong.

    The Roman Empire was crumbling, as the people realised that they were, in fact, Italians, and had swapped conquest, Latin and the denarius for pasta, opera and, rather disastrously, the lira. Faced with economic ruin, Caesar had replaced the lions with cats.

    You might think that this would make life easier for a gladiator. You would be wrong.

    Lions lope slowly towards you. If you stand just slightly to one side, they cannot see you around their mane.

    Cats leave five blood-red lines along your cheek without having appeared to have moved at all.

    Lions growl as they approach. Cats are as silent as death.

    And nobody has ever had to run around an amphitheatre with a lion clinging firmly to the top of their head.

    Today, though, his career had ended. The silence of the crowd had told him as much.

    He had stood proudly, skirt flapping only slightly embarrassingly in the wind.

    He was ready for the nip at his ankle. He was ready for the talon-barbed swipe at his face. What he wasn’t ready for, though, for what actually happened.

    The cat had ignored him.


  43. Angry Men
    (195 words)
    On Fridays, we clock off from the week. We exit from garages, factories, offices: casting off our embarrassing frailty and banality. We shave off the five o’clock shadow and make sure we dress sharp for the fight. We’re gentlemen-at-arms with our slicked back hair and crisp white shirts, skinny ties and fitting black suits. We spill our poetry on to the streets to combat our prosaic lives.

    Before I head out, I search in the mirror for this weekend me. He’s there in the cold blank stare. The eyes tell me he hates his shit job and the way he’s expected to be. One last comb through the hair with the steel weapon of choice, its teeth having plenty of bite. And I feel like we are ready to step into the fray, ready for what’s been designed.

    Along with lost dogs and stray cats, ranks of side street soldiers line up to get kicks from the night. Digits numbed by keypads feel sensation as they clench into fists. Their basic form pounds out our inarticulate anthem of despair, and it’s this pugilistic purging that ensures we wear catharsis on Saturday faces.


  44. And On That Bombshell

    ‘Some say she’s cute as a Kenya kitten, but ferocious as a Kenya lioness.
    Some say you don’t want to get caught between her thighs, because they are made of steel.
    All we know is, she’s called Veronica!’ Jeremy Clarkson said.

    A sportive figure, but as feminin as a woman can be, entered the stage. She wore three patches of weathered leather as a bikini. In her right hand she carried her trusted sword. Pandemonium in the studio.

    ‘Veronica, you’re the only female gladiator in the Circus Maximus, so we are very pleased to have you here for A Star In A Reasonably Priced Car,’ Clarkson said.

    ‘Well, I’m…’

    ‘And also because you’re a woman,’ Clarkson quipped.

    The studio audience chuckled. Another provocative joke from their revered host.

    But the smile around Veronica’s red lips vanished. As a woman she had survived in a man’s world, a world without respect for the weak, let alone the so-called weaker sex.

    ‘You’re going to make fun of women too now?’ she said with a stern face.

    No one chuckled.

    ‘Ah, fuck it,’ she said. And in one swift move she thrust her blade through Clarkson’s heart.

    ‘Guess those people were right about me being ferocious.’

    Then she walked off the stage.

    209 words


  45. 210 words

    No Choice But Courage

    We enter the arena, encountering our opponent in a room done up in bright yellow walls.

    A monster lurks beneath this sunshine veneer, a ghastly contrast to the smiling clowns and bubble-blowing fish adorning the walls. It flows from the corners to swarm around our feet, dark and catlike.

    We know this enemy well. Left unchallenged, it worms its way inside, feeding on our questions, what-ifs, and nervous anticipation, growing until it seeps from our pores to congeal beneath our chairs. It surges down hallways, sweeping its victims off their feet.

    We’ve been here before, anticipate its attacks. We examine a find-the-hidden-items mural, counting birds and balloons to keep the monster at bay.

    In time, we enter another room, passing the morning’s fighters as they leave: toddlers who’ve lost their hair, children who rely on the blood of others to survive, teens whose bodies attack their own organs. The opponent is strongest in this place of seashells and soothing blues.

    My warrior takes her place, blinking back tears and forcing stillness into her muscles as she awaits the sharp bite of the needle. She breathes, unbroken, against the fire flowing into her veins.

    When it’s over, we emerge exhausted, hardened, ready to fight another day.


  46. Gladiator

    (209 words)

    There will be blood in the sand. I visualize my foe dying at my feet. As I wait for the first challenger, listening for his footfalls, hunger thrums in my belly. I fight better when my head is clear, when my senses are keen.

    Today will be mine.

    All the days are mine.

    I’m undefeated.

    I can hear the first opponent crunching the dry grass outside the arena. It’s hard to muffle the sound of his feet in the still morning air. He doesn’t have stealth skills. He’s bumbling, each step crackling beneath the weight of his armor.

    I hold my breath, make my body rigid as stone. Waiting. Every muscle tensed, my eyes fixed on my foe. We who are about to die salute you, he tells me. I hear it, the unspoken voice of every combatant who approaches my coliseum.

    He enters, and I am upon him. The struggle is fierce, if too brief. Against my sharp weapons, his cumbersome protection weighs him down. I do not press my advantage. I like to give my opponents the feeling they have a chance, even if they do not.

    At last he is on his back, his six legs flailing.


    I end it.

    Another beetle dead.

    Catalus victores.




  47. “The Killing Field”
    by Michael Seese
    210 words

    He was tired of the blood. The blood, the death, the senselessness of it all. He exited the arena to a silent roar; the cheers no longer reached his ears. This day’s victory would earn Gaius considerable geld. But the emotional tax far outweighed the gain.

    The Gods had graced him with strength, speed, and stamina. Yet they cursed him with the soul of a poet. Would it comfort the vanquished if they knew that in his heart he recited a brief elegy for them before he drove his sword home? Doubtful. A small measure of humanity bled from Gaius each time he washed another man’s blood from his face.

    As he sat in a field a furlong from the Colosseum, salving his wounds with leaves of the yarrow, a light tickle teased across his lower back. His turned to see a white kitten nuzzling his scarred skin. A soft purr rumbled in its belly. Gaius gathered the bundle of fur and innocence in his arms and stroked its back. It burrowed its head deep into his chest. Gaius allowed himself a single tear.

    He wondered when would come the day he could look at his reflection and not think “Murderer.”

    “Not today,” he said, snapping the kitten’s neck. “Dinnertime.”


  48. The Last Campaign (208 Words)

    This was his last campaign. The stalwart gladiator buckled himself into his bronze armor, his face scarred from battle, his body weary.

    “David, are you ready?”

    “I’m not David, I’m Maximus.”

    David grabbed his empty pillowcase and ran downstairs where Melissa stood in her kitten costume with Dad. He snatched his sword and stomped out to the SUV.

    “I’m getting a ton of candy,” Melissa said. “I bet you and Jack won’t keep up.”

    They always went to Jack’s house at Halloween because he lived in the big development, and they were best friends, even though David now went to private school.

    David ran up the walk to knock at the door. Mrs. Warren opened it at once. “David! Oh my! Didn’t Jack tell you?”

    Something weird and cold began to form in his stomach. He shook his head.


    He heard boys’ voices before Jack appeared with a few others.

    “Why are you wearin’ that?” Jack said. “You look like a dork, but you can hang out if you want.”

    The cold had taken over his body. “I gotta take Melissa around.”

    “Whatever, dude.”

    He thought Mrs. Warren said something. She gave him four bags of candy, but he didn’t care.

    Maximus lay dying on the earth.


  49. Training Partner
    210 words

    The stench hit him first. A regular ten-mile run through the fields of a nearby farm meant that he was no stranger to the sometimes unpleasant appeal of nature’s scent but this was different. One hand covered his mouth as the nauseating sweetness grew with each pounding step up the hill.

    The source of the smell was soon obvious. He slowed to a stop, staring in horror at the bloody carcasses piled near the tree line. Bile tainted the saliva when he swallowed a sound of disgust. What had been a colorful calico cat and several kittens was now a mangled heap of flesh and stained fur, a level of carnage that could only have been caused by human predators.

    “What the hell . . .”

    A mewling whimper reached his ears as a marmalade smudge became a small kitten creeping out from beneath a scrubby bush. Enormous hands, scarred and battered from years in the boxing ring, captured the animal in a gentle hold.

    “Don’t be afraid,” he crooned, cradling the trembling little body in the crook of one muscled arm as he headed down the hill. “We’re just gonna send the cops up here and then I gots a big ol’ gym that needs a mouser. You like the name ‘Rocky’?”


  50. “Hero”

    No one knew her real name. All the locals had called her “Gladiator” for as long as most could remember. She was the only surviving member of her family since the deadly salmonella acidosis Nicosia epidemic of 2345 AD.

    Every ten years she would officiate the graduation of new “gladiatorettes” fresh for battle, with leash in one hand and radio controlled collars in the other. There were always new vacancies to be filled as the terrible OwlCats devoured the trained protectors like black olives on salty pink fingers.

    One new recruit, by the name of Felonia, had shown promise–excelled in lasso throwing and OwlCat stalking. She was the one who would permanently enslave the nasty creatures therefore freeing the town forever.

    No one knew that Felonia was secretly phobic of OwlCats and had faked required field experience in order to practice her true passion: spoon-bending and swallowing swords.

    Her boyfriend, a two-headed boy by the name of Scruffy had promised her a job if she could reach Pasadena by morning.

    As the crowd set up for the biggest celebration in their town’s history, Felonia was making plans for her happily-ever-after.

    190 words


  51. @stellakateT
    205 words

    Chariots of Fire

    When the cat next door died, I rejoiced, never told young Sally that I’d put slug pellets down. I know they are poisonous but I’m a Gladiator fighting to eradicate the curse of the felines. I don’t dress up like Charlton Heston with a short skirt hiding my manhood and I don’t wear sandals either. I don’t park a chariot on the drive that’s reserved for the Jaguar. Margery says it’s stupid at my age to drive such a car; it guzzles petrol like a thirsty camel! What does she know about dromedaries? She’s got so dour and miserable in her old age. Where is the girl I married, the one that abseiled into dark, dank caves looking for rare bat colonies? Where is my Boudicca with her bladed wheels chopping up her fallen enemies? Now that chariot would look something on our shared drive.

    The enemy appeared this morning sitting proudly on the shale at the end of my garden. For a moment I felt a twinge of compassion.

    “Look George there’s Sally’s new kitten, isn’t it cute?”

    I lifted my eyes from the Daily rag and muttered an Anglo-Saxon cuss word.

    Perhaps I’d let it grow a bit before I plotted its demise.


  52. Pollice Verso

    210 words

    Commodus strode around the deserted arena, enjoying the silence, the soothing darkness, the memory of his last victory. It helped remove the remaining vestiges of sickness that had struck earlier that day. He glanced up at the imperial box. Surprised, he saw it was occupied, and recognised with dread the figure that sat there.

    The god rose.

    “Ah, my Imperial Gladiator,” said Dis. “It appears you have been much remiss in your worship of me. You claim your fights were in my honour when truly they served only your vain-filled glory. Tonight I seek entertainment, which you, as my champion, will provide.”

    Commodus backed away, trying to ignore the alien fear snaking through him, becoming terror as shrouded figures swirled their danse macabre.

    A gate opened, one that had not existed before, disgorging the pitiful remnants of tormented souls, tethered together in death as Commodus had bound, and fought, them in life.

    He watched in horror as the shackled creatures crawled cat-like towards him, slinking through the pitch in feline fury, hissing and spitting their carnivorous hatred. In their hands he could see the clubs with which he had taken their lives. In their blind eyes he saw his darkness reflected.

    He looked at Dis, saw his hand move …


  53. Josh Bertetta
    208 Words

    The gladiator, scared stiff against the wall, looked for escape.

    The crowd above and around him roared and he watched Caesar, rubbing his hands together, take to his feet.

    Body parts strewn around him. The metallic smell of splattered blood.

    The gladiator, given the name Titus, licked his lips and bared his teeth as the lion lumbered forward.
    Titus was cornered, his impending end immanent.

    They’d tried to gang up on the beast, but what was one to expect when Caesar tossed his captives into the arena, telling them only to fight to the death? When he fit them with flimsy armor and armed them with toy swords at best? When he’d caged and starved the monster and demanded its trainers beat it daily?

    Needless to say it was a massacre and Titus wound up like the rest.

    Caesar leaned back and smiled. It was rare a rare occasion to see Caesar smile. His parents (when they bothered to pay attention) never saw him smile.

    He leaned over his custom Coliseum and stroked the orange tabby, a mouse tail hanging from its bloody maw.

    This wasn’t the first time.

    It wouldn’t be the last.

    And in the future, a teenaged Caesar would move on to bigger, “smarter” animals.


  54. @awenthornber
    210 words

    Marching the white line

    Feet marching, marching, marching.
    In straight lines, all of us, just marching, up and down, always marching.
    “What’s the use of all this marching?”
    “How is this training? I haven’t had a fight, pulled a punch or met an opponent. I have, however, worn out several pairs of plimsolls and I have blisters on both heels.” I want to fight and my frustration is beginning to surface. I almost wobble on the line but straighten and regain my balance.
    Jet coughed, I turn around.
    “Panther,” she hisses. “We are being watched.”
    I swiftly survey the area. There is nothing out of the ordinary, just a line of would be gladiators, marching, marching, marching. My senses are heightened, things have changed within me, now I am on edge. Since Jet mentioned a watcher, I am uneasy.
    Now I am concentrating on marching a straight line, down the middle of a road, that’s in the middle of nowhere, learning to walk a tightrope. All the time looking out for the spy, probably from our opponents. The competition means everything to me. I need to protect our tactics.
    I stub my toe, but keep my balance. The training helps keep me steady.
    … And all the while, the cats eyes are watching.


  55. @JamieRHersh
    201 Words

    Her Royal Meanness

    “What are you doing?”
    “I’m a Gladiator, fighting a lion.” I pointed my foil sword at Morris, who meowed agreeably.
    “He’s a kitten, not a lion,” Sally pointed out.
    “So, I’m a kid, not a Gladiator. Don’t you know how to play make-believe?”
    I rolled my eyes.
    “You know why they were called Gladiators?” Sally asked, ignoring my roll-eyes.
    “No, and you don’t, either,” I said, just as unsure as I sounded.
    “They’re called it cuz of The Mean Princess. She was stolen by a dragon, and when the king told all of the knights to go bring her back, they went, but she was so mean that they didn’t really care about saving her. When they got to the cave, they found out she’d been eaten. All of them cheered. They were glad-he-ate-her.”
    I thought Sally might have been making a joke, but Sally did not smile, she just made her same-old-Sally expression. I wanted to argue about the word “Gladiator”, but Morris was looking runaway-ish and Mom would be calling me in for supper soon.
    “You gonna cheer me on, or what?” I finally asked her.
    “Sure,” she said, “as long as I get to be The Mean Princess.”


  56. Claws on the Keyboard
    210 fur-covered words

    I was born to wage battle. The day I was expelled from my mother’s body was the day I started training to be a warrior. ‘Born under the right auspices,’ the shaman declared at my birth, ‘Born to fight, this one.’

    As soon as the weaning I was removed from my loving, simplistic family to be housed with the other warriors of the clan…surgically altered to remove the temptation of breeding, taught by our handlers to become gladiators.

    By the time I was learning to walk, I was perfecting my craft. My body, a weapon, my infantile speech, a war cry. Nothing could sway me from my militaristic aims: not playmates, not comforts, not baubles. The fire of the warrior burned through me, tempering this soft and malleable flesh into rock hard muscle and iron determination.

    Not even the cuteness of a kitten could melt my warrior’s heart.

    Daily my brothers and sisters of the warrior clan perfect our craft. Mock battles are frequent and unplanned as we balance stealth, agility and silent hunting with the sudden attack and fierce defense which mark our kind as the deadliest of all creatures.

    Soon, the human will let the cats of the warrior clan hunt the evil rabbit in the yard!


  57. The Sun Sets Over the Arena (210 words)

    “Momma, can we keep him? Pleeeeaaaase?”

    Gladiator was dirty when Catie found him in the backyard. She loved him, though. Sometimes, she squeezed the orange kitten so tightly that he hid from her for a while. But he always came around, especially when he heard the treat bag.

    “She invited all the g-girls in the c-class except me. She s-said her party was for cool girls so I couldn’t c-come.”

    Gladiator jumped onto the twelve-year-old’s lap, oblivious to her runny nose. He contentedly purred himself to sleep while she stroked his velvety belly, rounded out from years of frequent treats.

    “I know it’s soon but–I can’t help thinking that maybe… I love him!”

    Catie paced her room. Why couldn’t she just keep still? Gladiator followed her in vain, waiting for her to finally sit down so he could curl up for his afternoon nap. Catie had been off of her usual routine lately.

    “Oh Greg, I don’t mean to be an empty-nester, but doesn’t her room look strange with her gone?”

    Gladiator sniffed around the furniture, leaving graying hairs in his wake. Catie hadn’t been around for a while, and now her smell was fading. Gladiator finally settled in the corner for one more nap, but it wasn’t the same.


  58. The Killer Within
    207 words

    I am become Death, destroyer of dreams, leveller of cites. None shall escape my steely gaze, nor my bloodied claws release their prey.


    “I know, right? Fluffybutt McCutie-face is in da house.”

    Cries of mercy fall upon deaf ears. Bow down and repent all ye sinners. Your maker shall judge you soon.

    “What is he doing?”

    “I have no idea, hey. He keeps stalking random stuff all the time. There’s nothing there, Fluffybutt!”

    “Cats are so psycho.”

    The primal rage of my ancestors courses through these veins. Memories of past glory, claw against blade, blood against dirt, the hunt, the kill, the feast- Ah! Put me down, peasant!


    “Watch out – he bites when you tickle his tummy. Don’t you my schmoochy widdle cutie-face?”


    “Ha ha! I love it when they chase the laser pointer. Dumb-ass cats.”

    This foe confounds me! And yet it escapes? I must discover the source of its power.

    “Gross! He just puked in my shoe! Not cool, guy.”

    I stand with my ancestors, proud and victorious.

    “Ugh. That’ll leave a stain for sure.”


  59. Greasy Blood (210 words)

    Father’s baritone voice was like any other wave in the sound ocean. It washed up on my ears next to the air vent, the ladybug prancing on the window’s ledge and the melting ice in the glass he’d left earlier.

    Black sheets fanned over the window and scrunched up under the door seal. Sunlight would dance on my corneas with steel-toed boots.

    I sat in the corner with one of father’s yellow legal pads. He wanted me to draw the grease-haired kid that smelled like Marlboro’s and syrup. He had saucer eyes that for some reason often settled on the back of my neck in pre-calculus.

    Father wanted me to bloody the greasy-haired kid. Blood was sticky like syrup, but not as sweet.

    His voice from the shadows, over my shoulder, insisted. The ladybug changed directions. The ice melted.

    One time when I was younger, mother brought home a cat with a tongue that scratched my skin. It stayed behind the couch, licking itself and sleeping. That seemed nice.

    Father threw it away.

    I finished my picture. Father dragged me by the arm to the backyard. Sunlight danced. Birds, sewer flows, BBQ chicken, humidity, overwhelming…overwhelming.

    He wrapped my knuckles in tape with shards of glass poking through.

    “Ready, gladiator?”


  60. Androcles, the Lion, and the Gladiator

    (207 words) @LucciaGray

    “So, is this flash fiction about gladiators?”
    “It’s about a guy called Androcles who was a Christian in pagan Rome. He saw a lion with a huge thorn stuck in its paw.”
    “A lion in Rome?”
    “There were lions everywhere then. It was a wild and savage world. No electricity, running water, or moblies. So Androcles took out the lion’s thorn and they become friends.”
    “This is a fable; a story including animals, with a meaning.”
    “And what’s the meaning?”
    “You’ll know when I finish telling you the plot. Androcles was taken prisoner. The Romans didn’t believe in free speech or freedom of religion.”
    “Poor lion, lost a nice owner.”
    “The lion was taken prisoner, too. Lions were used in the coliseums to fight with the gladiators, sometimes they ate up Christians too, for enjoyment.”
    “A gladiator at last!”
    “Chance would have it that Androcles and the lion came face to face in combat.”
    “No kidding! I bet the lion remembered Androcles and refused to fight.”
    “Exactly! He purred like a kitty when he saw him. How did you guess?”
    “Because in all the films I’ve seen, it’s the gladiator who does all the killing. I suppose the gladiator does away with both of them, right?”


  61. “Second Chance V-Day”
    By Sydney Scrogham
    208 words

    This is how I spend my Valentine’s Day—plop on the couch in my blue polka dot fuzzy pajamas and watch the love life of a hunk on an episode of Gladiator Man.

    I shove popcorn into my mouth and it crinkles inside my cheek. My belly peeks out above my waistline, but it’s okay. No one’s looking. Valentine’s Day has been me, myself, and I for the past 22 years.

    “We’re surviving just fine, aren’t we?” I talk to myself. Doesn’t everyone?

    This week’s Gladiator Man comes onto the screen and I stand up so fast that the popcorn bowl spurts off my lap. Bits of buttery goodness scatter over the white carpet browned with beer stains.

    I can’t look.

    I have to look.

    I haven’t seen those baby green kitten eyes in 22 years.

    “I suppose I had a love life some years back,” Gladiator Man says.

    I scoop up some popcorn at my feet and fling it at the television. On impact, it leaves little smudges on the screen, blurring the lines of Gladiator Man’s face.

    “I’m not really over Christine,” he says. “She’s the one that got away.”

    My stopped heart starts beating again just in time for me to pick up the phone.


  62. As the Romans Do
    204 words, @pmcolt

    As the next combatant enters the arena, I am struck by our similarities. Gladiators both, outsiders to this society, condemned to fight tooth and claw for the spectators’ amusement.

    This one is fresh meat: not already bruised and bloodied like the last one. Even as the crowd cheers this spectacle of Roman strength, I sigh with ennui. His trial by combat begins. I toy halfheartedly with this morsel of a man. He flees, I pounce.

    Their whole society has become softer than the fuzz on a kitten’s belly. Soon this civilization will fall, the arena will crumble to dust. The pattern is timeless as the dragons of legend.

    From the Imperial box seats, Caligula’s bizarre antics distract me momentarily. My opponent swings his gladius at me. I leap back and grin: kitty has claws! But I see desperation in his eyes. He knows the end is near.

    Whether it’s bread and circuses, or Kardashians and cat pictures, civilizations grow decadent and rot like meat. I’ve seen it before, I’m seeing it now, I know I’ll see it again. Men fall into a dark age of superstition. They rush through their insignificant lives, afraid that dragons lurk in all the unseen places.

    And we do.


  63. The Argument
    209 words

    “You’re gonna make me wear that?” Rob jabbed a finger at the leather straps and brass studs dangling from the hanger. “That crap won’t even cover my meat and two veg!”
    “You’re wearing it.” I said, staring him down. “You go to the damn gym everyday, may as well show it off.”
    He spun away from the costume, glaring around the store as though it had slapped him in the ass.
    “How about that?” he said, waving at an old-fashioned suit that looked like it belonged in vaudeville.
    I didn’t even bother to reply.
    “O.K. That?”
    I examined the outfit he’d pointed to—a cowboy get-up. Needless to say, the chaps weren’t assless.
    “It’s a Roman party, for Christ’s sake. Why are you being such a scaredy-cat?”
    “Not all Roman’s were gladiators!” he said, poking again at the over-lapping leather of the costume’s skirt.
    “Whatever.” I wandered away to stare at the neon wigs.

    * * *
    “Cassie, Rob. S’glad you could come!”
    It sounded like my co-worker had been at the Jack for a while; I needed to find that bottle. I strode away to the kitchen, but not fast enough to miss her drunken giggle.
    “You dressed as a kitten?”
    Rob’s voice was sulky. “I’m a lion.”


  64. Plotless
    201 words

    I got nothing.

    In fact, I have so much nothing I could write a black hole’s worth of lack of story. It’s Friday the thirteenth and it’s my husband’s birthday… he wants me to watch Hawaii Five-O with him and who am I to argue? It’s not like I actually have anything to write.

    I mean I could sit here and write nothing, about writing nothing until something happened but the puppy is trying to make me give him my last piece of chicken… this after he ate the rest of my dip.
    It’s not like the fiction’s working here , but the whining really isn’t helping… oh, wait that’s me. That’s it… the dog ate my story—he sucked it out of my brain and then used it as a chew toy… that means that he’s probably left my plot in the front yard when he picked up a stick.

    So all I have to do is find the plot before it freezes solid. That would be bad because I’d have to let it thaw and you know how it is, a frozen plot never work right.

    What do I know, I’m just a gladiator who thinks they’re a kitten.


  65. The Eyes Have It

    Her eye shone like crystal, and her diamonds dazzled like stars in the light of the bright sun. The senator’s wife! Maximus squinted and averted his eyes, but the onslaught of opulence was ceaseless. He espied a faint sneer escape Marcus’s eyes. Today is not the day! Maximus vowed. He was not going to be defeated today. It is his hundred and forty-ninth combat, and his future hung in the hands of scornful Marcus. He has no patience for Marcus his signora, the senator’s wife, and her diamonds.

    Marcus charged. Maximus swiftly swung to the left with the speed of a cheetah and grabbed Marcus’s sword. Not to be outdone, Marcus somersaulted backward and seized it back. The flash of light blinded Maximus. He wished for a diversion, something to wash out the revolting display of wealth and arrogance from his eyes. Wiping his brow, he jumped and recovered his sword, but the light kept flashing. All eyes in the arena were on him. The referee raised his hand.

    Maximus looked away, and there it was. The furry kitten with soft diamond eyes and a plea in his eyes! Maximus rose. One hundred and fifty, he roared and split Marcus’s sword in two pieces.

    The eyes had it.

    208 words


  66. Roar?
    205 words, @pmcolt

    Please sit down, dear kit.

    “If it fits, I sits.”

    Of course. Young one, our situation is desperate. Our people have lived in these lands since time long forgotten. But the armies of the Romans came and forced us into subjugation. Now they force us to fight for their own amusement.

    “I are serious cat.”

    Indeed, it is a serious matter, but there is yet hope. For if you will fight in the gladiatorial games, and win, the Romans shall grant freedom to all our people. You will have won our hearts, our homeland, and our eternal gratitude.

    “I can has cheezburger?”

    Yes, little one. If you are victorious, we will gratefully bring unto you anything your tiny heart desires. It is a great burden we place upon you: you are yet wet behind the ears, and need fight without scutum or gladius.

    “I had a gladiolus, but I eated it.”

    Your opponent approaches! Do not despair. Though Panthera leo is forty times your size, though his roar is thunderous, though his stately mane darkens the sun, yea, though the very ground trembles beneath his mighty paws, you too are a lion in spirit. Are you ready?

    “Is it can be hugs tiem now plees?”