Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 12

Welcome back! Always a pleasure seeing you here. Flash fiction madness, you know, isn’t limited to writers; I can’t count the number of Fridays I’ve spent refreshing my screen after 12:01am, eager to read your stories. Some nights, depending on how long a week it’s been, I even make bets with myself as to whose the first story will be. That’s right, folks; never a dull moment here at the dragons’ lair! And yes, there’s coffee. Plenty of coffee, it turns out. (How did you know?!) 

WALL OF FLAME: Today is the final day to earn eligibility for the February #RingofFire badge (you need to have participated at Flash! Friday at least three times in February). Please remember eligibility starts fresh each calendar month; let us know ASAP once you’ve earned it, to keep your name on that fiery wall. If you missed out, no worries; a brand new month starts in just a few days! Details here.

 

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DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Four, consisting of powerful, keen-eyed dragon captains Pratibha & Sinéad O’Hart. No misbehaving here; these captains will keep us ON TASK and marching in fierce, battle-like determination all the way to 200 words! “Show me why I should care about your characters,” says Sinéad, “and how the their lives will be altered once the dust of your story settles.” –“The human mind,” says Pratibha, “is still an unexplored frontier. I look for fleshed out characters and flowing narrative that delivers a nice punch.” GAME ON, CAPTAINS!  

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

Now, grab your umbrella/tent/anti-Nature-weapon, and let’s go!

* 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.

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: conflict. The below conflict must represent your story’s primary conflict. Note that “man” is used in its gender neutral sense):

manvnature

 

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

 

Shipwreck of the United Malika in Cap Blanc, Mauritania. CC photo by Jbdodane.

Shipwreck of the United Malika in Cap Blanc, Mauritania. CC photo by Jbdodane.

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597 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 12

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 191

    Timely Conversation

    You hold the paper cup to your lips, but the water drips unnoticed across your dry tongue. You stare at the clock as it ticks silent seconds of still solicitude.

    “I’m sorry,” it says. “She was a good person.”

    Like the waves beneath my prow.

    “I would turn backward if I could, you know.” The round face stares at you, unmoving, granite. “Give you another day, another hour, another minute.”

    All the time in the world wouldn’t be enough. The ten and the two quail beneath your glare.

    “Must fly, you know. I wait for no man.”

    With a wheezing hitch, the minute hand inches forward, and you crush the cup in your hand, defeated. You stare down the long tunnel of solitary time in a desert of your own making. She became your ocean, your horizon-to-horizon. Her currents pulled you through stormy tempests and listless doldrums, and when she was gone, the sea sank into the sand, and the desert stretched long before you.

    Your ship lists among the dunes, powerless, impotent against the dusty soil, and there is no drop of water for your thirsty soul.

  2. High Tea on the Tranquil Sea

    Captain Jonah signed me onto his ship three weeks ago. We laded in Dexic’s Bay and set across the Tranquil Sea on planet Barbon

    The mates weren’t human, but one, a lass named Verona. She told me the Tranquil Sea was like naming a tall man Shorty, or a fat man Tiny. Or so she said.

    Then we set sail through the leeward passage to the Southern Volcanic Islands. Second day out Captain cut to open water.

    “We would make better time,” he hissed.

    “If we lived,” Verona added.

    “Aye,” he agreed indifferently.

    Third day, winds picked up and the thick, muddy water rolled up into mountains. In between the waves the ship slammed into the sandy sea floor. It spryly destroyed our props.

    Over the next couple of days we spent longer spans in the sand and less on the waves.

    After an unimaginably long week, we couldn’t see the waves anymore, they were pushed off to the West and here we hungrily wait. If the wind subsides we may survive. If we run out of supplies first we won’t.

    I don’t like the way the cook and the captain are whispering together, watching me work, watching me drift off to sleep.

    203 words
    @CharlesWShort

  3. Only you.
    @mishmhem
    205 words.
    #flashdog 😉

    Maura bowed her head as they crested one sand dune and moved on to the next. They had been following camel tracks in the sand for the better part of the afternoon with no sign of water. Hell, the only sign of the camel had been the hoof-prints.

    Her attention was drawn towards her companion as he began waving wildly as he yelled ‘Over here!’ at the top of his lungs.

    “Mickle, what are you…” Her sentenced died on her lips when she saw what looked like an ocean liner in the middle of the desert.

    “Only you,” she said with a sigh, unsure if she was amused or annoyed. “Only you would start re-enacting a scene from ‘Star Wars’ at a time like this.”

    Mickle’s only response was to smile and then kneel, looking at the tracks in earnest. “These were no…”

    “Don’t,” she warned before he could finish.

    “Sandpeople… “

    Marua shook her head.

    “But…”

    “Mickle, at this point either I’m going to kill you, or the desert is. If you keep your mouth shut, you might just make it to water.”

    Meekly, her companion stopped, only to mutter under his breath. ‘We’re going to regret this.’

  4. @colin_d_smith
    200 words

    “Come out!”

    I leaned against the closet door, breathing heavily. The ship groaned, buffeted by wind and waves.

    “You know why this is happening. And that’s why you need to go!”

    I was just trying to help. The bad weather was coming, and I thought the spell would turn it away. Of course, no-one believed it was a spell until the thunderstorm turned into the biggest squall anyone had ever known. It seems nature doesn’t like to be messed with.

    There was a mighty thump, screams, and next I knew, a hole tore open in the side of the ship, and I was sucked out into the sea. The rain beat down on me, the waves lashed against my face. Then the rain became hard and gritty. I pushed at the waves only to find them slipping like dust through my fingers. The wind died down, the sky turned pale blue and cloudless.

    I turned and saw the ship, stripped of paint, rusted and broken, sitting on a sand dune. I managed to pull myself up out of what had been water, and found myself standing in the middle of a desert.

    “Okay,” I said to the air. “You win.”

  5. Duty
    (210 words)

    It was his duty to go down with the ship. But not all duties get to be fulfilled.

    The United Malika had been adrift for weeks, fire had ravaged her engines beyond repair. With no power or communications, she became a floating prison, sentencing her crew to death unless help appeared on the horizon.

    But none did.

    Eventually the food ran out, forcing the crew to hunt down the few rats that made the mistake of stowing away in the holds. The crew tried to catch fish, but the sea denied them. Not long after the food was gone, the fresh water had to be rationed. Some of the crew went mad with thirst, dying in agony after drinking seawater. Others jumped overboard.

    When he buried the last of his crew at sea, he thought about joining them. But the United Malika still floated, and as the Captain he had a duty to remain with her. He would remain on board until she slipped into her watery grave. She would be his coffin, his eternal tomb. It would be his relief when the sea claimed the United Malika.

    It never did.

    As the captain walked away from his ship, he cursed the sea for keeping him from fulfilling his duty.

  6. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 197

    In the Eye of the Beholder

    They say that Sandy is my name,
    That wide destruction is my game.
    I hover wide, a baseless mass,
    I circle near, a cantankerous ass.
    My temper can’t be tamed or taught,
    I can’t be blackmailed, paid or bought.
    I rough house all I want, you see,
    You’ll come out worse if you meet me.
    There’s no telling what I’ll do;
    Maybe you should see the view.
    Flattened houses, rifted lakes,
    Broken dams and skidding brakes,
    Cars blown over and even more,
    Trees like matchsticks on the shore.
    Ships tossed over, listing wide
    From prow to stern to starboard side.
    Seasick sailors, pale-faced crew,
    Panicked captain, “What to do?!
    Lifeboats, man them, get to land!”
    Poor fool, you’ve just hit the sand.
    Wiring, power, it’s all out,
    Hear the hiss and hear the shout
    Of desperate workers, fighting wind,
    Crying to me, when’s the end?
    Never, HA! I laugh and throw
    A tornado down there just for show.
    Fork some lightning, thunder crash,
    Send the rain, make it lash.
    Stay indoors then if you dare,
    I’ll come find you, I don’t care.
    I say to you, don’t mess with me,
    My name’s Hurricane Sandy, see?

  7. The Loser
    (210 words)

    You tried to consume me in your sea of sand.

    You lost.

    True, there were times when you almost won. There were moments when I thought it was over. I lost track of the times I kissed my wedding ring and cried, trying desperately to drink the few tears that rolled down my sunburnt cheeks.

    You almost drove me mad.

    You teased me with your mirages and clouded my mind with heat driven delusions. Sometimes I fell for them, running over a sand dune and falling to my knees. I would scoop a handful of water and bring it to my mouth. I heard your laughter on the wind as I inevitably choked on a mouthful of sand.

    You have a sick sense of humor.

    Then you sent the vultures to break me. You had them circle above, reminding me that I was almost dead. I shook my fists and raged at them, but they were always there. However, I wasn’t destined to become a pile of bleached bones, picked over by your winged minions.

    Call it fate or irony that I came across that shipwreck in the desert. But that shipwreck that provided me with shade and some water.

    You can cry foul all you want, but I won.

  8. Capricious Gods
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    208 words

    I stood in the baking sand, hands on hips shaking my head. I just didn’t believe it. We’d agreed. We’d all sat round the table, and yes there’d been a few drinks involved, but we’d all agreed, no more messing with their heads. What’s more I’d chaired the meeting and no sooner have I issued the minutes than this. ‘Marjak,’ I bellowed in a voice that echoed around the world.

    Marjak’s corporeal form shimmered into reality beside me looking like a sulky school boy. ‘No need to shout.’

    ‘No need, no need…’ I spluttered to a halt lost for words and resorted to waving my arms in the air, then stopped as my actions threatened to whip up a storm. ‘What’s this? And after we’d agreed.’

    ‘I’m god of land and sea.’

    ‘And I’m god of ice and fire. And at the moment I feel like roasting your… Why?’ I stamped my foot for emphasis and we both jumped aside as a chasm opened up beneath our feet. I took some satisfaction as a gout of molten magma singed the bottom of his paisley patterned silken robe. Silk, I ask you.

    ‘It wasn’t in the right place.’

    ‘Right place! That sea had been here for thousands of years.’

  9. A Dream to Live BY

    210 words

    @clivetern

    Elsbeth licked her lips. The skin was dry and cracked. She opened her eyes and looked across the desert. Pierre’s tracks were still visible, a line of indentations leading away. She shifted, and whimpered as her broken thigh shifted.
    The sun rose higher. Metal joints pinged as they expanded in the climbing heat. It reminded her of the wooden beams in their Alsace home, expanding in the summer.
    Pierre called her, she looked up. He wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t back yet. To soon, to soon. But he would be back. Her Pierre, brave, sweet, romantic Pierre with his—
    She squealed, voice scraping against her vocal chords. Pain bloomed, an explosion from her leg, threatening to overwhelm her. It passed slowly, she whimpered. There were no tears.
    Such a stupid accident to have, a moment of levity in their flight across the desert punished by capricious fate. Was it their punishment for escaping the fate of France? For trying to reach a port where there’d be a ship to America?
    She closed her eyes, exhausted by heat and agony. Pierre saved her one last time, his smile a final perfect memory.

  10. The Non-Skier versus the Mountain
    210 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    Scared? says the mountain.

    I look up. The mountain pretends she hasn’t spoken. Herringbone pine points innocently at the sky and ski lifts glide serenely up and down her blank face.

    I sip my coffee, watching Everyone Else.

    Everyone Else hears nothing. They are all marching past me and heading for the mountain, casually dressed like superheroes, skis balanced like incredibly streamlined burdens on their shoulders.

    Everyone Else is smiling; bewitched by the tempting way the mountain touches the sky, by the perpetually virgin slopes cascading down her sides like dazzling white ribbon.

    Scared! the mountain reminds me, as I dare to simply admire the view.

    Yes. Scared.

    Of heights. Of drops. Of falling. Of fear itself.

    Alone, I sip my coffee.

    And then I begin to write.

    I mutate her glittering snow into dull, brown sand, and I twist her alpine cafes into shipwrecks. I snap the cables on her lifts, and watch the distant gondolas drop like small screaming stones. I wrench her from the earth and I drag her, with my right hand alone, to the very ends of the earth. And I crush her into dust with a single flick of my wrist.

    Scared, scoffs the mountain.

    Yes.

    Scared.

    But I still have the last word.

  11. Coping With Loss

    The relentless, cold-blooded fever of the sun has left us weak and gradually peeled away our once stubborn resolve like a fingernail under the skin of an orange. This year saw the tragic death of our beloved son and this trip was your idea to help us come to terms with the loss and move on. We have no basic rations of food, but if we did, I would rather eat nothing and waste away if only for you to survive this arid hell. I hold you in the night and we wish on stars that we’ll be rescued and you say you’d never been happier than when our son was born.

    ***

    The relentless sun has peeled away our resolve like the skin of an orange. This year saw the death of our son and this trip was your idea. We have no food, but I would eat nothing for you to survive hell. I wish on stars that you’d never been happier than when our son was born.

    ***

    The sun has peeled away our skin. This death trip was your idea. I would eat you to survive hell. I wish you’d never been born.

    195 words
    @MicroBookends

  12. 201 Words
    #Flashdog
    @feclarkart

    The Parliament

    From afar the wreckage seems to float in the constant blue sky.

    The ship burnt decades ago, a pyre on an already retreating sea. Rust, ash and sea lichen have leeched down to stain the sand she beached in.

    They used to run helicopter tours around the coast for the tourists, used to haul in their money like shoals of silver fish. That ‘copter came down hard one stormy day, and that was the end of that. Now, the odd drone footage appears on YouTube, but never for very long.

    When the wind blows in a certain way, the smell of smoke and oil mingle with the rotting sea kelp, tainting the salt air. A particular cocktail, that has turned the stomach of many old salts.

    If you stand on the shore, above the sound of the surf, a clanging and clanking can be heard, its rhythm hard to catch. Moons, tides and gales orchestrate this eerie percussion, as sea worn metal beats on metal.

    A parliament of owls roost there now, setting sail into the night to hunt across the dunes each sea smogged dusk. Some say their cries are the dying screams of the pirates who drove her there.

  13. Weeds
    196 words
    @lizhedgecock

    ‘I don’t understand it…’ Derek’s words struggled through the kitchen window to Marianne. He was bent double, grubbing at a luxuriant carpet of weeds. ‘I put stuff down.’

    ‘I know,’ Marianne called back. She craned to see Derek, who straightened up suddenly and clutched at the fence for support.

    ‘If the flowers grew – like the weeds – we’d be laughing…wouldn’t we?’ He mopped his forehead with a hanky, panting.

    ‘Yes. We would.’ Marianne remembered when flowers came in a bunch, cellophane-wrapped, before Derek retired to spend more time with her. At least he isn’t under my feet when he’s out there, she thought. But he always wanted her near, where he could see her.

    Derek ambled towards her, his large frame blocking out the sun. The bright trowel trembled in his hand. He’s a wreck.

    ‘Time for a brew?’

    ‘I’ll put the kettle on. Go and get changed, you’re all sweaty.’

    Marianne sighed as she made Derek’s coffee. Not too much milk. Three sugars. And, from under the sink, a drop or two of weedkiller. Not the plant food in the weedkiller bottle. The real stuff.

    She closed her eyes and saw sun-warmed paving.

  14. Stranded
    (210 words)

    I hate the beach. I am vampire white. I slather on my gloopy armour and sit awkwardly, each of my limbs deliberately untouched by any other part of me.
    ‘I keep telling you not to wear all that black! Too hot.’
    Mother knows bloody best!
    My blanket shrinks when I sit, its corners unwilling right angles that curl like my soggy sandwiches.
    I turn my attention to some little kids whose powers are far greater than mine. I watch through dark glasses as they conjure a pirate ship from sand. The tide is never far from my thoughts, and I perform their sculpture’s autopsy with my eyes. They notice me and wave. I half smile in admission that it’s kinda cool.
    ‘You used to love coming here.’
    No, I bloody didn’t!
    I take a sandwich from the hamper. Strawberry Jam.
    ‘Your favourite!’
    No it’s bloody not! Tears prick my eyes. I look out at the horizon to level myself.
    Have to go now, Mum. This is too bloody hard.
    ‘Okay, Love. I’m watching over you. You’re doing fine.’
    Til next year!
    I bite at the sandwich ensuring jam oozes from the corners of my mouth to give the kids a kick on my way past.

  15. Ship of the Desert
    209 words
    @lsunil

    ‘Come One, Come all! See the Ship of the Desert,’ screamed the banner in the market. The banner showed the image of a ship and then the usual camel and date palms.

    Little Abdul looked at the poster and was completely hooked. He had never seen the sea or the ocean. Seeing a ship anywhere close to home was out of the question. But it cost 50 Rupees.

    Ammi will not agree to let him go. She will say, ‘It’s a waste of money.’ They had just about enough to live without going hungry. Everything else was an extravagance.

    Abdul waited for Abba to come home on Friday. He ran to fetch water for Abba to drink and to wash. He queried Abba about his journey.

    ‘Abdul, tell me what it is?’ asked Abba. Abdul was not surprised that Abba understood. He always did. Maybe older people can read young minds. Abdul told him about the Ship of the Desert banner and the cost.

    At this Abba laughed and told him, ‘There is no need to go all the way to see the Ship of the Desert. You see it every day. It’s a stupid camel which they have decorated for the tourists.’

    Abdul’s hopes sunk in the desert.

  16. Katie Morford
    @KLMorford
    200 words
    Illusion

    Nature always has the last laugh.

    You think you see progress, a rushing tide of man’s intellect slipping through the decaying refuse of unevolved thought, leaving ignorance in its wake. Your theory ships sail across the ocean, only to run aground on the rough sand of reality.

    Nature sinks another grand idea of man, the metal bones of the ship rusting until it’s covered by the shifting sands of time.

    It’s an illusion, you see.

    A lake shimmering bright in the desert, luring naïve hopefuls to cast off their anchor lines and abandon reality for a vision.

    I don’t blame the poor suckers. I was once young enough to be invincible and stupid enough to know everything. All these years with only the swirling sands and a ship’s skeleton for company have shown me the truth. I secure my hide roof against the blowing sand trying to scrape my soul raw. I coax life out of scraggly rows of plants tougher than me.

    Nature’s a patient enemy. It wears away the illusion. One day my bones will lay out by the skeleton ship as the sands cover us both from memory.

    But not today. Today I live. Today I win.

  17. DUMPED

    “Captain, we have a problem…”
    Captain Williams stared intently at his phone, “Quiet man, I’m handling a delicate situation here.”
    “But sir…”
    “Just deal with it!”
    “Ok sir, as you wish.”

    Williams re-read the last text and winced. He carefully typed out his reply…
    It’s not you, it’s me. I just need some space.
    Moments later there was a ping, which was such a delicate sound for such a violent reply.
    YOU DARE TO DUMP ME!!! YOU WANT SPACE, YOU SHALL HAVE IT!

    Wow. How did he always end up with the crazy ones? She’d gone from earth loving hippie to bunny boiler in less than a week. That had to be a new record.

    The boat rocked violently. The crew burst into sudden activity. He ignored them.
    I’m thinking of you. I don’t want you to feel deserted, I’m away for months at a time.
    YOU ARE THE ONE THAT SHALL FEEL DESERTED!

    There was an almighty crash, forcing Williams to look up. He shouted, “Can’t you handle a simple departure?”
    His men pointed out the window. Endless blue had been replaced with endless yellow. The silence was broken by a ping.
    ENJOY THE WALK HOME! P.S. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MESS WITH MOTHER NATURE 😉

    209 words
    https://www.facebook.com/CraigAndersonAuthor

  18. Z-A of an Apocalypse

    @making_fiction #FlashDog

    207 words

    Zedonk once roamed the savannah.

    Yet we ignored their extinction, like our own.

    Xyster winds scrapped soil from land, like flesh from bone.

    We watched oil tankers turn to rust on the sand dunes of London.

    Voices of nature, whispered then screamed. Muffled by our greed.

    Useless products filled our homes and Apple filled our hungry hearts.

    There is always tomorrow to fix it.

    So we thought.

    Ramparts of concrete couldn’t stop the floods.

    Questions would come when it was too late.

    Politicians procrastinated.

    Only interested in how they look on a TV screen.

    Neanderthals would be laughing at us, if we hadn’t killed them already.

    Mother Nature performs infanticide.

    Life was ours to treasure.

    Killing was what we chose.

    Jetstream failures and pandemics.

    Indigo tears fell from the eyes of infants.

    Hell is other people, they say, but it was always us. Just us.

    Given our time again, would we stop it? Could we stop it?

    Formaldehyde mist creeps in the deserts of our failure.

    Eugenics couldn’t save us. Our belief in our godlike powers was misguided.

    Desperate children are bloodied and hungry. Orphaned by parents and nature.

    Come, my child. The grim reaper calls them.

    Bloodcurdling screams lost in the incessant winds.

    Apocalypse is now.

  19. @stellakateT
    208 words

    Ships that pass in the Night

    It was a mirage! It had to be!

    He pulled his hat further down over his eyes hoping Lance hadn’t seen it. They needed to keep travelling north and the Ship was definitely in the south-easterly quarter of the ancient compass. Lance told him he was stupid to part with good money; his iphone app would be more accurate. ‘That’s if you can get a signal’ he wanted to retort. He’d only just met Lance and wasn’t sure whether he could answer him without a tirade of angry emotion being flung back at him.

    “Whoa” yelled Lance “Look over there”

    He pretended he couldn’t see the Ship rising up in the desert. He told Lance he must be hallucinating.

    “Have a giant swig of water”
    “You have a swig Old man; your eyes have dried out”

    Old man! He was only seven years older although at times it felt like a huge chasm that couldn’t be negotiated. Lance talked about people, books and pop stars he’d never heard of.

    “I’m heading that way” yelled Lance

    He had a choice be a leader or a follower. Weeks later he heard a body had been found in the desert. He didn’t ask if it was Lance. He no longer cared.

  20. Dances with Nothing,

    Thanks a lot for the jinx Kevin Costner. Man, I would kill for a flood right now. Do you have any idea how bad an ocean full of fish stinks when the water dries up? I spent the first months trying not to heave.

    That’s how my floating Shangri-La ended up stuck in a desert. Not that the rest of the world isn’t turning into a desert as well, but, at least this area didn’t have fifteen feet deep of rotting fish puree.

    My Red Wings echo as I walk along the corrugated metal hallway to one of my storerooms. I told everyone who would listen that a giant flood was coming to wipe out the world. They all thought I was insane. Look—when an angel tells you they plan to reset the world with a giant disaster, you listen.

    I bought an outdated freighter on the cheap. I spent months loading provisions on it. Then I realized, I didn’t want to be alone. I posted an invitation on Meetup, and even posted on the bulletin board at the grocery, but no one accepted.

    I debated kidnapping companions, but as the wisdom of Costner points out, that never works. Instead, I linger alone in A Perfect World.

    209 Words
    @michaelsimko1

  21. SPECIFY (206 words)

    The diesel powered vessel was built for one purpose and it performed well. Nordic Knot was an ice-breaking ship and spent its time opening channels in the frozen waters of the Northeast Passage. The bow was fitted with a feature very few had at the time. A propane torch resembling four telephone poles lashed together protruded from the upper deck and could be swiveled 45 degrees to either side. A focused blue flame would be directed at chucks of ice that were otherwise impenetrable, melting them on contact. The machine was lovingly referred to as Scatha. Nordic was on a mission to create a passage through the Kara Sea when the alarms sounded. The ship was motionless and Scatha was depleted of fuel. A stalled icebreaker is a doomed icebreaker. Ice, the white devil, takes hold and begins to squeeze. The ship’s sides were buckling and all power lines had been severed. The crew began to write final letters to loved ones saying goodbye. The captain knew it was time. He opened the safe and removed the gold lantern. He wished for dry land. He wished for hot sun. He wished for more fuel. He was granted his wishes but merely exchanged his hell.

  22. Boy Vs. Nature (210 words)

    Alex knew the cards nature had dealt him were different from other boys, but he was told nature was God, and God would not do anything to harm him. Alex had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but he liked to think of it as Lou Gehrig’s disease because he loved baseball. He loved all sports, but by the age of seven was unable to participate. He would cheer for his brothers until he lost his voice. Alex loved his books but he could no longer read them. Words appeared jumbled and seemed to vibrate in front of his eyes. His mother and his nurses read to him daily and he would point to his bookshelf when they stopped. He wanted to hear of more adventures, more stories to feed his imagination. Alex loved to play in his backyard. He felt it had everything he could ever need; the world’s best swing set with a slide so high that only his dad was brave enough to bring him to the top and only his mom was strong enough to catch him at the bottom. His toys were left in his sandbox for a year after Alex went back to God. There lay his trucks and action figures and a rusty ship.

  23. Nature vs. Nurture
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    210 words

    Captain’s Log:

    We have run aground. The ship’s engines are destroyed. Chaos reigns. Only Captain America, Spiderman, and I are courageous enough to brave the wilderness before us. We set off in search of food, in search of water, in search of safety in this hostile land. Suddenly, a loud rumbling, like the heaviest of thunder, echoes through our ears.

    “Thomas!”

    An alien. A mind-reading alien. We seek cover, but there is none to be found.

    “Thomas Keith Sullivan!”

    Augh! The alien controls my brain, reading my innermost thoughts, stealing my identity.

    “Tommy, it’s almost bedtime. Time to get out of the bath.”

    Mission abort. Mission abort.

    The earth shakes as the alien approaches. It flings open the ship’s hatch. We are doomed. No hope for survival.

    “Gracious, Thomas, that tub is filthy! I swear there’s more dirt than water in there.”

    Resignedly, I relinquish my crew to the clutches of the hostile lifeform before me. But I shall not surrender. A captain goes down with his ship.

    “Here’s your towel. Dry off, get your PJs on, and you can have a cookie before bed.”

    Alas. The alien’s methods of interrogation have proven too powerful. Tomorrow is a new day. There will be other ships.

    And I want a cookie.

  24. Captain Mabel’s Denouement
    By Katrina Ray-Saulis
    208 words

    Every inch of Mabel’s cracked skin hurt. She didn’t bleed anymore, though she was covered in open wounds. She had become numb to the sting of salty air. She drifted in and out of consciousness, following the waves which pushed this floating mass grave across the earth. She was both completely aware of her body, and somehow disconnected from it. Looking at it from outside herself.

    The men she had beat, frightened and bribed into boarding her ship lay around her. Each a bare skeleton, a pile of bones. “Bad luck, a woman on a ship,” they’d all said. She had mocked them, likening them to superstitious children and housewives.

    The only thing that frightened her about death was the thing that had kept her going all these years. The list of sins she knew she’d have to answer for. The theft, battles, murders. The unspeakable things she’d done in the last few weeks which topped anything she had done in her long career.

    As her eyes opened, shut, opened again, the ship groaned. It was running aground. She’d prayed for land and as she found it her eyes shut one last time. Her breath escaped her lungs. Her body settled among the bare bones of her crew.

  25. Saulė

    I stabbed the heat once with a sharpened twig. I didn’t kill nor wound the blistering menace but it felt my rage, my unbridled defiance.

    I would cocoon myself in palm fronds to avoid its searing wrath. The sun chuckled at my naïveté as its orange tentacles slipped through tiny cracks and looped itself around my wilting body like a flaming octopus. Cursing the infernal beast was fruitless as it only made me thirstier. Sometimes I just ran, bolted across the roasting sand until my lungs bloomed fire. The bored star tracked my escape, offering a hazy middle finger as a prize.

    When the loneliness descended upon me like nightfall and my mind sank like the boat, I was forced to make peace with my tormentor. I would salute her daily and she reciprocated with a warm kiss. We lost ourselves in flirty laughter and conversations about family, books and climate change. She was muted perfection. Once, at dusk, I confessed my love, told her that she was the golden heart of my sky.

    I still think of her four years after my rescue. Every morning I watch through the window as my fiery mistress rises in all her splendor. I always offer her a whispered and desirous hello.

    @Blukris
    208 words
    #Flashdog

  26. @colin_d_smith
    203 words

    Jonas looked down at the crosshatch pattern of lines in the sand in front of him, then gazed into the sky, shielding his eyes with his hand.

    “I’m waiting!”

    A rumble.

    Slowly, small ruts began to form in the desert ground to his right. Jonas watched as lines and curves appeared, as if a tiny vacuum cleaner was sucking dirt from underneath.

    “B…”

    The vacuuming stopped for a moment, then started again. This time all curves.

    “…3.”

    Jonas looked at his grid.

    “No, sorry!”

    More rumbling, and a lightning flash. Jonas just smiled, unperturbed.

    “OK… let’s try G-7.”

    Silence.

    Suddenly the sky darkened. Clouds began to move across like in a stop motion nature movie, turning from shades of grey to black, highlighted by flashes of sheet lightning. Jonas leapt to his feet and ran.

    There was a loud bang. Jonas turned, stumbled, and fell on his bottom just in time to see a large metal object fall rapidly from the sky. It landed only fifty feet away from where he sat causing the ground to shake and kicking up a huge dust cloud. A ship, or at least the remains of a ship. Jonas jumped up, waving his fist.

    “Yahoo! I win!”

  27. Word Count – 191
    @susanoreilly3
    #flashdogs
    #flashfriday
    buddyor.tumblr.com

    Sailing

    Abandoned in the waves of desire
    my frustrated loins on fire
    the captain has left his ship stranded
    deserted I am, his needs handled

    He’s misjudged my nature
    Thinks I’m a forgiving creature
    Unaware that mutiny is slowly rising
    revenge looming high on the horizon

    I used to wear rose colored glasses
    Ignored when at others he made passes
    But my innocence he has forever ruined
    I’ve had enough of being pruned

    Using my feminine wiles
    My adoring body and smile that beguiles
    Secreting money away
    Saving for my get out day

    I’m his eye candy
    On his arm a displayed trophy
    Sick of prettying his table
    I’m no longer willing or able

    I have been searching for a new beau
    Alone I’m not a pretty view
    This one is going to be well vetted
    My needs met first expected

    Him and I have finally reached the end of our trip
    his belongings I throw on the skip
    I’m journeying on water’s new
    this time there’s a better view

    He treats me like a queen
    frustration nowhere to be seen
    this sailor adores my curves
    and my ecstatic moans he loves

  28. Sustainability,

    Do you wish to reduce your eco-footprint?
    Do you wish to live sustainably?
    Does recycling appeal to you?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, then do we have a deal for you! Here at EcoKing Homes, we are passionate about responsible living. Did you know the average home requires the destruction of forty-seven trees and the killing of two virgins? It’s true, look it up.

    We love trees and virgins, that’s why EcoKing Homes invented a better housing method. Instead of all the time and effort it takes to build fresh—we recycle.

    Let me explain the patented EcoKing process:

    We’ll acquire a boat heading from the scrap heap. Instead of adding garbage to the world’s problems, we’ll repurpose it for your home. Our homes come in many sizes, from sailboats for individuals to freighters big enough for the largest families. We will outfit the boats with solar panels, green houses, rain collection systems, and all the requirements of modern living.

    Our experts will work with you to locate the perfect spot of unclaimed coastal land. Then, our expert sailors will ram that sunmabitch onto that unclaimed beach. Bingo, your dream home is done.

    Spots are filling fast. Call now.

    205 Words
    @michaelsimko1

  29. Three Mothers
    @making_fiction #FlashDog
    209 words

    I have two mothers.

    The first is Mum, who dabs crumpled tissues on her eyes. She goes places to hide her weeping for my pain, for my future; but I can always tell. When she returns, her smile is too false and eyes too darkened.

    The second is Mother Nature, for when Mum is exhausted by blaming herself; she’ll bitterly blame nature for my mitochondrial disease.

    Afraid I might judge her, she sometimes hides empty bottles in the laundry. I dump my school clothes in and pretend I haven’t seen them.

    My body is fighting a losing war against nature. I do not have the weapons to fight back. No words to comfort Mum.

    When I see that she is sad, even in my nausea and pain, I smile. I smile, for I know she says I have the most beautiful smile. And when she smiles back, I dare to dream that everything will be okay.

    They give me experiences I might not have. Theme park next – I’m heading for the pirate ship on the beach.

    For my unborn brother or sister, a cure. But they say that this is against nature. Against God. Two mothers and Mother Nature. I dream of a world that allows three mothers.

  30. Ramshackle Hope

    He had made his ship from his front door, part of the shed, the stairs from his playhouse (as well as half of its roof), his mother’s ironing board, the abandoned knee-high drawing table of his earliest years, a tray table, cardboard boxes, gum, duct tape, masking tape, papier mache, twine, three shoelaces, tin foil, cling wrap, his deceased grandmother’s immense cache of yarn, a storm window, a knackered screen door, and the sacrifice of his beloved bicycle Edwin, so that he might live on to serve as a steering wheel for the ship as well as some other mechanical accoutrement.
    He had heard of a distant sea where the waters asked you riddles and engaged you in quests. He was determined to live a life full of knowledgeable talking waters.

    He longed for sailing. He felt the water in his veins hum, a magnetic pull of like calling to like, asking him to join the seas.
    He had never seen an end to the sand but supposed there had to be one if his blood could feel the call of something else.
    So pushed his boat inch by inch, day by day, endlessly hoping for something other than sand.
    For a chance for his watery adventure to begin.

    210 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  31. The Retreat
    @laurenegreene
    208 words

    “Go on the retreat,” they said. “It’s so relaxing,” they said.

    So I signed up. One week of vinyasa yoga to get me away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city that never sleeps.

    I should have read the brochure more carefully. Stuck out here in the desert with these loonies. I closed my eyes for shavasana, and tried to force my body and mind to be still. Thoughts of water swirled through my head. The sun beat down on me, intent on frying the skin from my flesh and draining my body of all its natural moisture.

    And there in my head while I’m supposed to be focused on my breathing, I could see a ship, abandoned and sitting on top of a sand dune. Inside the ship, fridges were stocked with water, cool and refreshing: one single drop, a saver of my life. Plus, all the fast food I could eat, not this hippie organic crap they’d been giving me.

    But when the yogi tells me to open my eyes, reality slams into me like the rays of sun scorching my eyes. I’m still in the desert, fighting the heat, and thirsting for a knowledge within myself that continues to remain elusive.

  32. Adrift
    (208 words)

    All Captain Crastus could see was orange sand. The ship was awash in a sea of sand.

    “You have to believe the water is there,” Feliz urged. “Focus. See the ocean around us. Fathoms deep, full of fish.”

    “I can’t. I’m trying as hard as I can, but I see desert.”

    Feliz shook his head, and raised his arms skyward. “Gods, why must this one be so stubborn?”

    The sun blazed on the vessel, cooking all of them like a cauldron. Around Crastus, the angry crew waited. He could feel the impatience rising like a fist.

    “You can’t let their magic triumph.”

    “Why must I be the one? I’ve never had much imagination.”

    “This curse is on you, Captain. A sailor lives on imagination. Don’t you imagine the land ahead? The slumbering peaks of islands?”

    “I see the chart. I know where I’m going.”

    “But you don’t. None of us ever know where we are going. We think we know. But the wind, the sea, the Gods who make the storms growl—they have the ruling hand, yes?”

    “No. It’s science.”

    Feliz looked out at the ocean he saw, faith deep enough to drown in. But he wasn’t captain.

    “There is water, if you believe there is water.”

  33. Word Count – 194
    @susanoreilly3
    #flashdogs
    #flashfriday

    Stranded

    When he first suggested a cruise I thought we were too young for it being under the impression that it was mainly for coffin dodgers. You know the type retired, money to burn, aching bones all aided by a big dose of Vitamin D.

    I also pictured smiles, long dresses and suits and people generally getting on, my fella is cantankerous at the best of times it’s his nature he’s an extremely rocky sea but I’ve learned to relax and enjoy his waves. Others don’t have to put up with him and I can see an emergency stop being made in the middle of nowhere land, just so he can be escorted of.

    A smile breaks through my lips and I giggle, deserted on a ship, having fun, on my own with his credit card. I think this might be a goer even though it conflicts with my better nature.

    I can picture his face now completely shipwrecked as I wave contentedly from the deck, a desert would be ideal. He’d hate the heat, and the sand in his eyes, but I’d throw him some sunscreen lotion. I wouldn’t like the bugger to burn.

  34. The Insect Nation (207 Words)

    This is base calling 4376, come-in 4376… The commander bellowed. He could see that their lines stretched from the mother-ship across the scorching sands searching. A drone scurried past the guards and blurted out his report: “Line 11 has been raided. We’ve cut them below 600 and called a van-guard to prevent follow-back.” “Guards! Get to 300 we cannot risk a repeat of last time” A nearby a unit collected and marched to follow their orders. ”Continue”. “Sir: Lines 1 to 8 are returning well, usual fair, but line 11 is still to report anything.”

    The sun shone brightly as Peter, Karen and the girls ate their sandwiches – chilled drinks quickly slaked their thirst. Karen called the girls for a top-up of sun-cream before they scurried off to play with the other kids, hanging off the “The Battleship” in the sandpit. Brushing crumbs off her skirt, she reached over to collect the crusts of half-eaten sandwiches and saw… Ants

    Team 4, at the head of line 11 focused on the clear scent of sugar. Rough terrain had given way to smooth and now sugar was the overwhelming aroma, almost overpowering their senses. They had reached Jam, bread and crumbs. Forget the greens, time to harvest and return.

  35. On the Ship
    @voimaoy
    209 words

    The ship sailed under cloudless blue, behind a wake of waves. People crowded on deck to admire the view of sand and sky.

    “Where are the sand dragons?” Julia pouted. Adrian held her close.

    A waiter came by with sparkling glasses. The couple marveled at sunlight on water. It was expensive, but worth it.

    The Back to Nature Cruise promised sights of unspoiled beauty. So far, Julia and Adrian had seen spotted desert cats chasing herds of antelope over the dunes. They had seen stars under a velvet black sky. But the sand dragons were far more elusive.

    The ship sailed on, as clouds gathered on the horizon. The sky grew black, but it wasn’t night yet. Waves began to toss the ship to and fro, sand rippling like the back of an animal.

    A great shape rose up before them. “Welcome to my world,” the sand dragon said. “Once, all this was green. There were all manner of creatures, here– land and sea and sky. This wasn’t your world, alone. Not just for you did the trees breathe.”

    “What are trees,” Julia said. ” You say such very strange things.”

    “Wake up, honey.” Adrian was shaking her.

    “What an odd dream.” Julia sighed, looking out at the endless water.

  36. Favours
    @hollygeely
    208 words

    Maxwell’s lips were cracked and oozing with the blood of his parched body. How long had it been since he tasted water, that sweet nectar that he so badly craved? He could see the tantalizing mirage of a ship in the distance.

    No, wait – that was a real ship.

    “We’ll be there soon. Stop whining,” Janice said.

    Soon did not mean immediately, and they would have to continue their trek in the heat of the midday sun. Maxwell had been stung by no less than ten mosquitoes, there was mud on his pants, and he had seen a snake ten minutes ago.

    He could have died.

    “I can’t believe Sam had to work,” Janice muttered.

    “I could have let you come alone, you know,” Maxwell said. He had agreed to the three-hour tour, but not the hike to the dock. That had been an unpleasant surprise.

    “If you complain even once on that boat I’m telling your brother.”

    There was only one thing Maxwell feared more than nature, and that was the wrath of Sam. He remained silent, even when Mother Nature rained upon him and tortured his very soul.

    And so Maxwell swore a solemn oath that he would never again do favours for his cruel sister-in-law.

  37. A Delicate Edge
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    203 words

    Saharan dust streaks the clouds. Dr. Jeanne Walsh knows that eastern winds swirl it across the Atlantic in great plumes to feed the Amazon Basin half a world away. She knows that what rain sloughs from the rainforest soil, Saharan dust replaces: phosporous that supports the abundant life of the jungle.

    What is dry and lifeless here breeds teeming life there. The planet teeters on a perfect, delicate edge.

    Jeanne teeters on a rock outcropping, counting seals. Far-traveling dust coats her nostrils.

    Dust blasts this African peninsula where the Mediterranean monk seals scrabble for narrowing lives. Sand pelts graveyard ships rusting in Ras Nouadhibou. It buries the ghost-town of Lagouira as though scrubbing at the detritus of human existence.

    The dust blows into the seals’ caves. Jeanne only intrudes on this final refuge of the reclusive creatures in the hopes of saving them.

    Humans and seals share a tangled history that began with fishing, hunting, competition, and slaughter. It ends with marine debris, pollution, loss of habitat, viral epidemics, and algae blooms. The Caribbean species is extinct.

    Jeanne checks her tally, the number much lower than last year. She worries. How many tiny tumbles from the delicate edge until the whole thing collapses?

  38. M.R. Hawks
    @MRHawks2
    200 words

    A Few Survivors

    We looked on with sun cracked eyes and desert teeth.
    I could not help them. The strongest members of our tribe had clawed their way, from carrion piles of familiar faces, to surface alone; bewildered and half dreaming from shock.
    Old Man watched scavengers reap hot meals from bodies eroded by waves of wind and sand. He held his last grandchild close. Tiny brown fists, half the average size, gripped gray wire beard and would not let go.
    Scorpions in sand colored boots, marched forward. Barrel backed tails hung over uniformed shoulders. Black metal glinted in the setting sun. Temperatures dropped as they crawled along desert drifts, to enter our village. A few jumped from backs of pale armor-plated mothers.
    One, tipped his lightning powered tail towards our village leader. She and her husband didn’t move. Illness, weathered-beaten, fever blistered brows, rained down their sunken cheeks. They were hand-carried to the piles and counted among the dead.
    The White Crane was from gentler places. She climbed from her rolling white egg smelling of trees. She extended wings of water and food. We were helped safely into her healing shell.
    This is how Granddaughter and I traded our world for yours.

    • Isn’t it? I love most of their prompts. I’ve gotten a lot of of them. I love reading the other stories too. Isn’t it amazing how many different places people can take one idea?

  39. Mother Knows Best

    ‘Oh, I’m so sorry; there’s nothing there. Never mind, love. It was only 6 weeks; very early. Mother Nature knows best, I suppose.’ She patted my fisted hand.

    I wanted to hit her; punch and claw at her stupid face until she felt as much pain as I did. Make her realise that grief doesn’t come within a time-frame, that just because it was only a 6 week-old cluster of cells, doesn’t mean it was disposable. It was a life.

    It was my baby’s life.

    A week ago its heart had pulsed, a tiny flicker of hope shining through the grainy hostility of its host. To me it looked like the furthest star, daring me to dream, to make a wish. To hope.

    I drift down the sterile corridor, ignoring the smiling faces of healthy babies, taunting me from the posters and literature. I fix my gaze forward as I exit past the heavy-bellied women, chatting expectantly in the waiting room.

    I drive home and quietly click shut the front door before sinking to my hands and knees and letting out a feral howl.

    I am lost. Adrift in a fertile world; shipwrecked by grief.

    195 words
    @_sarahmiles_

  40. O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN

    Brian S Creek
    207 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    The recon pilot waited beside his Captain on the upper deck of the SS September.

    “Is it true?” said the Captain. “Have you found the green?”

    “Yes, sir,” said the pilot. “I ‘bout hit my fuel limit and started home when I caught glimpse of the great emerald; five days east, six tops.”

    The Scout reached forward and held the railing as the ship crested another dune. The Captain remained on the spot, his legs matching the motion.

    “What do you think it’s like, sir?”

    “The green?” replied the Captain. “I think it’s everything you’ve heard and more; rolling plains, vast forests and creatures of all shapes and sizes.”

    “I can’t wait to taste fruit,” said the pilot. “No more of cooks slop.”

    The Captain laughed.

    The pilot laughed along with him.

    The Captain drew a knife and slashed the pilot’s throat. The young man’s face echoed confusion as his life poured out over his chest.

    “This is our life,” said the Captain. “This ship and these dunes. We don’t walk on land.” He pushed the pilot overboard. “We only sail the sands.”

    He reached across for the intercom.

    “Yes, sir,” came the ensigns crackly voice.

    “We sail west,” said the Captain. “We keep searching.”

    “Aye, aye.”

  41. @betsystreeter
    201 words

    CURIOSITY

    I am going, but I am not bold.

    I did not come here of my own accord. I was brought here, conjured up and created through the acts of infinite others.

    Just like you were, by the way. Don’t be proud.

    We are that young frontiersman breaking up the hard Western dirt with his spade.

    And the girl in the basement, secretly practicing her reading and writing.

    The old violinist looking up at the stars.

    My journey – our journey – is icy and silent. The light, thin and weak.

    I packed heavy for the trip. Mathematics and equations and endless hours of thinking. Metal. Foil. Gears and microprocessors. Atoms and molecules. Trajectories and fuel cells. Hard-won degrees. Coffee.

    And dreams.

    I am hope.

    Hearts beat fast and frantic in the control room. I unfurl my landing gear and come down hard on the dirt.

    Eyes peer through my lens at a panorama of another world.

    I am you, and you are me. The instructions to make us have always existed, and always will.

    Thank you for learning, even if you were not encouraged. Especially.

    Thank you for looking up at the stars.

    Maybe I am bold. Maybe we all are.

  42. Mark Morris:

    The last survivor – 203 words

    The reactor cores were as cold as the methane snow that covered the USS Malika. Beyond the mile-deep drifts, Saturn filled most of the sky; its rings like a planetary peplum shirt, whirling around its waist, almost edge-on when seen from Titan.

    QP1D toggled the monitor back on, studying the crash site from above: the orbital satellite’s superconductive alloy circuits still managing to eke out a steady trickle of power from Cassini’s solar sails. The once-manned lander was on emergency power now, running on its hydrocarbon conversion plant; the service droid needing no energy-hungry life-support, and the millennia-dead pilot no longer being an issue – even to the most hopeful of automatons.

    Huygens had had a good run though. QP1D – the recommissioned Venus orbiter droid – had served him well, paring him away piece by piece until only his brain remained, the rest of his body being used as the last choice fuel for the bio-cells that had kept him alive. But even that most final resource had been finite and now that last precious part of him was gone, leaving the ship and its sole officer alone and stranded – yet another victim of Man and his failed battles against Nature.

  43. Message in a bottle

    The bottle hit the hot sand and sank into the rust coloured dune. A piece of paper was curled inside.

    “You sure this is going to work? I mean, what if the water won’t take it?”

    “The desert’s sand is like the sea. Alive.” A half-remembered thought trickled into my mind. “They say tons of sand blows out over the ocean.”

    The sun glared on the exposed glass. A few last drops of moisture condensed on the inside. A ringing silence filled the parched air.

    “You think it’ll get there in time? She needs to know I didn’t just leave.”

    “It’ll get there,” I lied. “She’ll know.”

    The burning sun turned thoughts into wavering mirages. I couldn’t remember why we were stranded. Why we didn’t just walk back to the waves. Get off the stranded ship.

    “Do you think she’ll wait?” The voice was tired, slurred.

    “Of course.” Words stuck in my mouth like grains of sand. “She’ll wait. And the church’ll wait. And fruit cake keeps practically forever.”

    I stared at the bottle, willing it to move.

    “I can’t wait to get home.”

    “It won’t be long now.” A half truth.

    The cold stole the last life from the ship as the sun slowly sank into the horizon’s waves.  

    Words: 210
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com
    @CarinMarais

  44. The Vow

    He watched the wind-whipped sand tumble across the landscape like ocean waves and remembered the vow he’d made to Maria.

    “I do not have much, but if you marry me I will give you all that I have. If you reject me I will sail off the edge of the earth, because I cannot live without you.”

    She spurned him and married the man her family wanted. He admired her dedication to family even now as the sandy squall stung his eyes and blistered his lips.

    There hadn’t been a single day he didn’t think of her. When he’d first left port, the lolling sea waves reminded him of her subtle curves. The black stormy nights were Maria’s wild strands of raven hair. He then came to the golden desert sand and wept with joy.

    He’d sailed several kilometers through the sand, mesmerized by its similarity to her golden eyes. He hadn’t noticed his ship’s slowing because of his trance. Now he inched forward through the course, golden grains. At this speed he would die before he reached the edge and he knew it. He disembarked and disappeared toward the destination he would never reach. Wind scrambled his footprints, erasing all evidence of his romantic journey.

    205 words
    @goldzco21
    #flashdog

  45. Dead Air

    210 words
    by Alicia VanNoy Call
    @callthewriter

    We bury Jovie in the lee of a dune.

    Her body slips with a hiss into the sandtrap, disappearing by degrees until only her face is left, browned by the sun, eyelashes blanched white; she looks asleep. But she sinks, sinks, and the whispering sand covers her face and she’s gone.

    Then there’s only the bleached bone smell. The empty simmering heat. The pinpoint afternoon sun.

    We cling to each other until the rising wind whips grit into our eyes. Tyne shakes my elbow.

    “Misha,” he says. “We’ve got to go.” He points.

    A thousand-foot dustwall, barreling at us across The Wastes. The wind begins to howl.

    It takes precious minutes to run back to the wreck. Goggles in place, gloved and masked, we climb the rusted hull to gather our meager supplies, barracans lashing.

    The buggy is loaded. Tyne unfurls the sail. I grab the tiller. The buggy lurches.

    Then we’re bouncing over the dunes, racing away from those three weeks of dead air, away from the massive wreck that sheltered us. Away from Jovie forever.

    A sob seizes in my throat. My goggles fog. I yank them down to dangle around my neck and the wind dries my tears into tracks of salt scoured away by sand.

  46. Carolyn Ward 202 words
    @Viking_Ma

    Sands of Despair

    ‘If I could save time in a bottle…’ sang the grizzled old man softly.
    The people walking past him on the busy street ignored him, except for the group of young men. They glanced around and then screened him from view.
    ‘You’re one of Them, aren’t you? hissed the ringleader, a snake with emerald eyes.
    The old man continued to sing, dust in his throat.
    ‘I said that You’re… One…Of …Them!’ This time the ringleader punctuated each snarl with a boot to the old fellow’s ribs.
    The sands of humanity continued to flow past, all compassion dried up, eyes averted and following the wind.
    ‘I recognised him, Danny,’ sniffed one of the other snakes. ‘It was him what closed down the plant. Bloody environmental friends, them lot. Our enemy.’
    ‘How could you pick the stupid earth over our jobs?’ another growled.
    The man curled up into a foetal shape, a dusty skeleton moored in pain. They continued to kick and hack, until their rage dimmed.
    Over at the plant, the ‘Closed’ sign swayed in the baked air. Dust swirled around the car-park and metal groaned. The money and jobs had gone, blown away.
    It was still not enough to save the world.

  47. Firefighter

    Stuart’s fingers feathered over the dry, taught surface. Unfamiliar to him, the tips of his fingers explored the cracked exterior and he felt alone, stranded in the dunes of fear that drifted through his tortured mind.

    It had been a dry summer and a carelessly discarded match had fallen onto a sheet of newspaper that had, moments before, blown up the path from the kerbside.

    That morning, the refuse collectors had come. Dave, a normally cheerful man, was in a foul mood, due to the discovery of his new wife’s infidelity. He’d kicked the recycling box hard and spilled its carefully stacked contents over the manicured lawn of no. 55. He had muttered ‘Fuck it. Fuck it all,’ under his breath and left the newspapers flapping around like trapped birds.

    Stuart witnessed this, sighed, and climbed into bed after a nightshift at the hospital in which he now lay.

    He slept through his neighbour knocking, wanting to borrow his lawnmower. Pete, knocked again, harder, then lit a cigarette while deciding to go to the hardware store and, finally buy one of his own.

    The house burned with such delight, Stuart was lucky to get out alive. One small victory over the forces of nature that had plotted his demise.

    209 words
    @_sarahmiles_

  48. Oh, for goodness sake, I’ve done it again! I give up – HTML wins and I will stick to regular text. Rebekah. if you have a moment (ha!) please change it back to a less shouty font. Thank you.

  49. In The Beginning

    I am alone. I sit, still proud, looking out over the vast sea of fine granules, feeling the heat of the bright Skystar beating down upon my sleek sides, and I watch, ever vigilant, for when the Masters bring the Test Subjects to visit me. They always bring a pair, but sometimes there are more. It’s always interesting to see what the Subjects do when they wake up from sedation. Their ingenuity and determination never fail to astound and sometimes amuse me, but in the end, they always lose, falling upon the sifting dunes, crying out to the skies in different languages, for mercy that never comes. I have watched many slowly disappear beneath the sand, never to be seen again.

    Today, they brought a new pair, laying them in the shifting shadows in my interior. I listened, as the Masters spoke of this particular pair and how they are different than the rest. She was created from a part of Him. The Masters harbor hope that perhaps these two might be something to build from. Only time will tell if this pair will have what it takes to survive.

    She stirs, wakes, calls out. “Adam?”

    I watch, waiting to see what will come next.

    208 words
    @Angelique_Rider

  50. War of the World
    209 words
    personalvapes@gmail.com

    It was wrong – everyone knew it. The warning had been fed to me first in my mother’s milk, then the morning gloop, the daytime ration, and the evening synth-ohol. Never -NEVER- consume things from the wild.

    It gives Her a way to hunt you.

    Find you.

    End you.

    By my reckoning, we had nine months becalmed on this accursed sea as She hunted our ship. Nine months of feeling Her malevolent presence and determination to flick the last remnants of Humankind from her watery garments. Nine months of breathing in her salt-tinged anger, feeling it burrow into our pores as the relentless sun beat on our shoulders.

    Feeling that anger in our bellies as our rations ran out.

    The difference between what a man won’t eat, and what a man will eat? Exactly two days of starvation. If we were going to die, we rationalized last night; it would be boldly defiant to the bitter end, bellies full of Her forbidden bounty.

    And now? In the bright light of day, blinking stupidly at the endless expanse of golden, hot sand stretching to every horizon? I’ve no more options, but no regrets. All that’s left is my anger, as fierce as Hers.

    “Damn you, Mother Earth! You MOVED the ocean!”

  51. title: Belong
    words: 209
    @RTayaket
    #flashdogs

    “Don’t hang that picture in the house, it doesn’t make any sense.”

    “It’s a boat in the desert, it’s a beautiful painting,” I whispered back. But Dave shook his head defiantly.

    “No. A freighter doesn’t belong in the desert any more than that painting belongs on a wall,” he said taking a box full of kitchen utensils into the other room. I slowly lowered the painting back into its box.

    If Dave didn’t make it or buy it himself, it didn’t belong in the house. A boat doesn’t belong in the desert any more than my grandmother’s silver belonged in the china cabinet. The painting didn’t belong on the wall any more than my potted plants belonged in the windowsill. Dave and his stuff had a place in the house. They belonged. My stuff and I are boats in the desert. We don’t belong.

    If it wasn’t his and his alone, it was not ours. I felt my baby move in my stomach as I slid the boxed painting to the side. I smiled. Something in the house would be just mine. I rubbed my hands against my belly and hummed, at peace. I was carrying something that Dave had had no part in creating. It was all mine.

  52. Whims of Nature

    210 words
    @el_Stevie

    “Roll up, roll up. Get your luverly genes ‘ere.” The hawkers cries rang out along the market stalls.

    “Want a genius? A boy or a girl? Why stop at one? Mix and match. Buy one, get one free.”

    “Don’t settle for second best. Don’t rely on the whims of nature. Satisfaction guaranteed.”

    Elaine wandered up and down the stalls as tiny slivers of humanity promising perfect offspring were haggled over under the dome of the Genesis market. Through the transparent roof a duck egg sky and yolk warm sun added to the carnival atmosphere below; another falsehood in their manufactured lives. She scanned the tables as she did every month when the market arrived but, as always, the man she sought was not there; he had probably jumped ship when trading standards set their sights on him.

    A tug at her hand made her pause. Mary had seen the play area, a fake beach with buckets and spades to play with and deckchairs for weary parents. It was early yet and deserted. For once her daughter would be allowed to play without the pitying glances of others.

    Elaine watched as Mary planted her footprints in the virgin sand, creating a path that lead nowhere, just like her own rusted dreams.

    • This is sad and thought provoking. I guess the child falls short of expectation. We do need stop seeking perfection. That’s a topic close to my heart. You’ve dealt with it in a very interesting way.

      • Thank you. I found this week’s prompt pretty hard to do – a couple of hours of false starts and almost ready to give up and then suddenly this wrote itself less than quarter that!

      • Thank you. Regardless of faults I don’t think humans should ever become an ‘off-the-shelf’ product.

    • This is touching, Steph. That we could devalue a human struck by nature’s whim is devastating. Life is precious not matter how unplanned.

      • Thank you. This was written pretty much with the recent law change in this country to allow a certain amount of genetic engineering, ie a baby can now have 3 biological parents. This is for medical reasons but it seems that more and more we are trying to create our ideal selves and side-lining nature – I don’t think it will end well.

      • I heard about that… Haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about it. There are pros and cons, as with everything, but seeing which out weighs the other is something I’m still working through.

  53. Words: 199
    @RTayaket
    #flashdogs

    “…happy birthday to you!” we sang and cheered.

    “What do you want to do next, grandpa?” asked my son, Billy.

    “Aye matey” grumbled Dad and Billy grinned.

    “Yar!” screamed all the children running around their grandfather, plastic swords in hand and party hats on their heads.

    “It’s so great how after all these years Dad still enjoys playing with the children,” I said to my sister, Ella, taking pictures of Dad making pirate noises and my kids running around him. She nodded as she did the same.

    “Let’s be land pirates!” shouted Billy.

    “Yar! We should be desert pirates!” countered Sadie, Ella’s younger daughter.

    “Aye matey,” grumbled their grandfather and the children laughed as Ella and I snapped photos. The kids went on about boats in the desert and whenever there was a pause Dad chimed in with “aye matey.” The kids ran around in circles around him and we watched Dad’s head droop down to his chin. When the kids realized he was sleeping they ran off to continue pirating in the desert.

    “Dad, wake up” I said shaking him slightly.

    “Why are you so tired today, Pop?” asked Ella.

    “I keeps tellin ya, I’m eighty” he answered.

  54. Epiphany postponed

    @geofflepard 202 words

    ‘It’s a mirage.’
    Like us. A trick of the light. A couple until you approach.
    ‘Amazing’
    Like all tricks easy when you know how. She takes my hand.
    ‘Let’s pretend it’s our rescue boat.’
    The dune looms above us; she leads me, laughing, up the soft sand. She the nimble gazelle, me the lumpen Sisyphus. Our hands part; nature dictates we must each reach the summit alone.
    ‘It’s gone.’
    It went a long time ago. Maybe it was never there.
    ‘Let’s find a new horizon.’
    She walks away from me, gingerly, tip tapping her way to the future. She’s dainty, easily defying gravity’s urging.
    ‘Look! There it is. I can touch it. Come see.’
    The sun monochromes my world, casting her into light, me into shade as I ease my way forward. Each step a hope, each pace a self-deceit. When the slide comes it comes fast and easy, a helter-skelter transition from one life to the next.
    After the tumult, silence. A voice, far gone calls my name. I pull for the surface, a grain at a time, channelling desperation to action.
    When I break to the surface, she smiles at me. I reach out and touch the face of God.

  55. The Flesh is Weak
    200 words
    by Timothy Gwyn
    @timothygwyn

    Mara was squeegeeing precious dew from the bulkhead when movement on the sand caught her eye. No one had dared the dunes to approach the ship in months. She clattered down the ladder, landing on the lower deck with a clank.

    When she heaved open the hatch, the man was shambling toward the anchor chain, clumsy in heavy boots of rhinophant hide. The sand boiled. She screamed a warning. An army of scorpsters erupted from the sand and attacked. The boots withstood the assault for few seconds before their claws began to draw blood. Frenzied stinging drove him toward her, stumbling numbly. He moaned as he pawed at the metal deck. Mara hauled him up and he collapsed, his legs swarming with the creatures.

    Mara ignited the flamethrower and torched them all, charring human and crustachnid flesh together. He didn’t scream, he was already numb from the thighs down. Good. She grabbed her surgical tools, then laid him on his back and propped his shredded calves up on a small barrel. He looked from the bone saw to her spring-steel legs and fainted. She would revive him with some rich broth. She wouldn’t tell him what it was made of.

  56. In Nature Nothing Exists Alone

    The rusting hulk belied the fine ship she’d been. Good times we’d had aboard her, ’til the day a green captain ran her aground. No one salvaged her—the cargo, yes, of course—and as the sand overtook the sea, she sat and rusted.

    A breeze kicked up the fine sand, and I set the filter on my respirator mask to maximum. My helmet’s visor worked hard to repel the layer of sand trying to obscure my vision. The heads-up display showed me I had another half-hour or so before the respirator’s filter became saturated. Saturated, my salty sea butt. Before I suffocated.

    I’d seen that, seen people tear off their respirators and gulp “fresh” air, not realizing they inhaled microscopic grains of sand, a grit which mixed with moisture in the lungs and made cement. A nasty way to die.

    I understand irony. The ice caps melted because mankind didn’t step up and try to prevent it. Climate change is just that, though. The seas rose, the deserts advanced, and the great old ship still yearned for the water, now miles away.

    I pat her hull, mindful I need to leave before I’m choking for air.

    “Next year, old girl.”

    If there is a next year.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    209 words

  57. Pirates & Storms
    209 words
    Captain Shamy swung her scope from the shadow on the eastern horizon to the pirate ship approaching cutting through the sand from the west.
    “We’ll make it,” she muttered.
    “Will we?” the First Mate, asked.
    Shamy turned. “If Gurron keeps the engines up to speed.”
    “I’m sure he will. His beliefs about their damnation don’t extend to personalized testimony.”
    Shamy laughed and repeated Gurron’s totemic imprecation, “Amen. By the Maker and the sons of the prophets.” She shook her head and looked again.
    The shadow in the east was swelling, darkening, brooding. She had never felt so warm towards a sand-storm.
    The pirate ship and the storm continued to converge on the ‘Mieville’. Shamy watched them in the lenses of her bring-em-near.
    One meant certain death. The other may be satisfied with taking their cargo. Though could also mean their life.
    The engines continued to strain, churning the desert sand, but above the groan another sound was rising. Wind flicked sand against her face, she pulled her keffiyeh up and lowered her goggles. The world went green and for a moment Shamy couldn’t see the pirate ship. Its rusting hulk carried little more heat than the sand.
    She prayed to the prophet that the sand came first.

    @clivetern

  58. “Beached”
    by Michael Seese
    203 words

    The police struggled to restrain the grind of onlookers. Oblivious to the din, Dr. Newton’s attention and energy remained focused on the immobile black mass before him.

    “Damn it! That’s the third this month. Why do they do it? Why do they beach themselves? Pity. She’s a beautiful specimen,” he said as he ran an appreciative hand along the smooth skin.

    “How can you tell it’s a female?” asked Simone, his assistant.

    “When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you sense it.”

    “What if it continues to happen?”

    “Worst case, widespread extinction.”

    “There must be—”

    “Shhh!” he hissed. “I feel something!” He placed a sensor against the leviathan, and listened. “She’s still alive!”

    An audible buzz surged through the crowd.

    “She’s severely dehydrated.” Newton called to the crowd. “Everyone! We need your help!”

    Without a word, the throng lined up beside the imperiled creature. Taking turns, each plugged a finger into her lubrication port, and delivered a small quantity of oil. Newton checked her levels, then rebooted her.

    Propellers churning the sand, she began lurching toward the water. With a titanic splash, she entered the surf.

    As she sailed out to sea, a metallic cheer arose from the crowd.

  59. “Fury”
    by Michael Seese
    210 words

    I stand in the fury.

    Arms outstretched, I curse Mother Nature, slathering her with every epithet in my vocabulary. She responds with a haughty huff, hoping it will send me scurrying. I refuse to yield.

    I am Ahab! “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

    She changes tactics. Needles of sleet sting my face. I do not flinch.

    I am Lear! “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!”

    The sane have long since sought safety. I seek a fight. My defiance only deepens her spite, and fortifies her resolve. She wraps an icy fist around the brine and hurls her watery vengeance at me. She fills the air with a banshee’s wail. Roaring rumbles pummel my chest. Blue bolts of electricity turn the sand around me to glass. The battle leaves us both spent. But I am still here.

    The clouds retreat. The rains cease. She has ceded.

    And I have lost.

    I have lost because I could not convince her to take me, as she took my family in a cataclysmic clash of harbor and homestead.

    In the end, I am Martin Luther. “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

    • Wow, powerful tell to the MC’s character: “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.””
      And the ML quote at the end, ““Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”” Chilling.

  60. Grasping Empty

    I reach for the glass by my bedside out of habit, not of thirst. It’s 3AM the hour of clarity and confusion. The knowing moon waits patiently in the sky almost winking at me as if to say, “Hello again.”

    “It’s not a gin joint and we’re not friends.” I practice conversations, encounters in my head. It’s all that’s left, me and my ache. 

    Alone in bed another 3AM and the moon must have learned I’m not up for another chat. The tepid water in my glass quenched my non-thirst and gave my hands something to grasp. It’s more than I can say for my mind. 

    I used to paint. Ocher skies and turmeric sands. Grains of the hourglass continue to fall. I remember choosing distinct palettes and the pungent scent of linseed oil as I’d clean my brushes. Another lifetime, I suppose.

    It’s that hour again, time where time seeps beneath the skin. I reach for my glass, but it’s not there. I’m thirsty now, and I’ve lost feeling in my fingertips. My bed has become Death Valley, the lowest elevation in my self-contained continent. This is divorce. Numb and confused. It leaves you grasping for granules of sanity and parched in the middle of the night.

    @blackinkpinkdsk
    210 words
    #Flashdog

  61. Salvage.
    @CliveNewnham – 210 words

    “Hey! Look what I found,” Jacko’s ivory teeth glinted in the sun as, beside the ship’s bridge, he held aloft three bottles. He took a swig, gave an appreciative cough. “Finest rum!”
    Excited, Alby ran up the ladder. “Just three bottles?” He took the one offered.
    ” Jacko laughed, “No man! Cases; loads of ’em. Good salvage. Danny!”
    “Dan’s searching the hold.”
    “Hey Danny!” Jacko bellowed toward the forecastle. “Come see what we found.”
    The sun went down…

    They drank, laughed at superstitious Dan, discussed cars they’d be able to buy with the profit, and wondered about the crew that had disappeared… the lifeboats hadn’t.

    Dan had found the carnage in the holds. The beam of his torch had fallen upon the snarling teeth of a monster. He’d leapt back bruising a shoulder against another cage; that too contained a dead lion, gaunt, skin stretched over bone, scraggy mane limp. A cargo of misery, shut in the black heat, glazed eyes forever staring into darkness. He’d gone on. Behind further bars he’d found the spots of leopards and cheetahs; and more cages contained the hairy cadavers of apes and the eerie stillness of horned goats sailing eternity.
    On a blood-stained gangway a captain’s cap…

    Dan fled the ship and ebola.

  62. Escape

    Michael shifted his toes sifting hot sand between them. The sand retained the heat, even though the ship’s shadow had been over this spot for some time. Whether that was a glitch or accurate physics, Michael could not say. He ran his hand along the red and grey of the structure’s aging hull. Flecks of rust broke away and trickled down the vertical surface until they joined with the sand.

    This was, by far, Michaels favorite environment. It made the most satisfying contrast to the world was here to escape. Even after he’d explored every dark corner of the ship… Even though updates had ceased coming months ago. He could still lay in the heat of the sun for hours.

    It was time for Michael to return. He had to go through his daily routine. He had to keep his body fit and his home in order. The sandy environment dissolved as he removed the sensory immersion band from his head. He stood up and began his exercise routine. All the while, he took great care not to focus on the window and it’s unwelcome vision of the gathering ice, the endless winter.

    193 words
    @acmarkz

  63. Drowning in Sorrow
    204 words, @pmcolt

    Distant voices cried out above. “Man overboard! Diver!”

    John pushed onward, wind whipping sand across his face until he couldn’t breathe. Salt burned his nostrils; sunlight burned his face. Were they all insane? Why send a diver into the desert?

    His paycheck afforded only a meager honeymoon to John and his bride: Europe by slowboat. Claire didn’t mind that he booked passage on a cargo ship. Every midnight for a week they waltzed above the mighty Atlantic, deckhands looking on.

    Then his world turned upside down. A great swell rocked the ship. Claire stumbled: John watched her falling, falling, falling in slow-motion toward the turbulent ocean. Crewmen rushed forth with life preservers.

    They had not seen what John saw. Night turned to day, ocean to desert. His bride was spirited upward on the winds of a waterspout. Vicious sharks carried aloft in the cyclone thrashed and snapped at her with their hideous black teeth.

    He leapt over the railing, hitting the sandy ground with a thud. Blinded by sand, he rushed forward screaming her name.

    “Man overboard! Diver!”

    “Save her!” John shouted back, drowning in sand. He pushed forward against the wind, determined to save his bride. Without her, how could he go on?

  64. The promised land.

    “Would you live on a ship?”
    “Perhaps for a time.”
    “What about all the time?”
    “We’d have to live in a sea port to live on ship permanently.”
    “We’d live on a peninsula.”
    “There are no peninsulas on our route.”
    “I’m thinking off the west coast of Africa.”
    “We’ve never gone that far south.”
    “The weather is warm all year round. We wouldn’t have to leave ever again.”
    “Will we make the journey?”
    “Some may die, but I trust most will survive.”
    “I don’t know…”
    “Think of it, the whole ship to ourselves, and the land, and the fish in the sea!”
    “How do you know it will be for us alone? What about the humans? They have destroyed every single place on earth where they have settled.”
    “There aren’t any humans there.”
    “No humans? Why not?”
    “It’s a cemetery for dead ships. They have no use for it, and they think it’s haunted, so they keep away.”
    “How will you convince the others to go?”
    “I won’t tell them. I’ll fly, and the colony will follow, as they always do.”
    “No more humans or bad weather, and plenty of food and shelter: The promised land, at last.”

    @LucciaGray (196 words)

    • Definitely a Queen in charge here. I thought perhaps Queen Bee with your reference to the promised land as that conjured up milk and honey.

      • I was thinking of seabirds, but bees sounds good too 🙂 My idea was the animals needing to get away from humans at whatever cost! Thank you for your comment.

  65. The Other Side
    @mishmhem
    207 words
    #flashdogs

    Alexi looked out his window and winced as the bright sunlight burned through his eyes straight to the back of his skull.

    He thought back to the night before when he’d numbed his mind with too much vodka and too many equations. He’d proposed that if a closed system were exposed to the wave produced when a Higgs bosen was struck by another that…

    He had been on his honeymoon… His wife beaming at him with a smile that could set even a Higgs particle spinning and he’d…

    Crashed…

    He rubbed his head, loosening his tie as the heat began to get to him. There had been vodka, of that, he was sure, but his mind ticked back and forth between his honeymoon cruise and the lab.

    Tick… ship… tock… lab… tick…

    One second there, the next gone.

    He closed his eyes as the room spun around him like a sand storm and refused to stop.

    He coughed, as the dry heaves forced him to his knees, his face buried in the sand beneath him. The world spun and he found himself caught between one moment and the next – drowning on dry land.

    Then he realized the truth: nature not only abhorred a vacuum… it filled it.

  66. Josh Bertetta
    Is This Really Happening?
    208 Words
    @JBertetta

    “Will you go with me mommy?”

    I can’t really describe the terror in his eyes.

    He shook his head again and again.

    The doors had opened, I’d tossed the four butts in my pocket. I remember listening to Metallica ‘ s “Ride the Lightning,” but not really hearing it.

    All I really remember are my hazards reflecting in the ambulance before me, the ambulance I’d followed through the rain and Friday traffic hour, as slow as an ocean liner on sand, while my thoughts raced.

    A tumor?

    Inoperable?

    What’s wrong with my son!?

    “Will you go with me mommy?” he begged after the paramedic asked him if he wanted to go for a ride.

    I got a text from his mother saying the ambulance was going to take him to the hospital. She’d talked to his psychiatrist.

    He’d seen, he told us, something in his head, and it invited him to hell. He saw his own face behind it, bloody, with an evil grin.

    The school psychologist called him autistic.

    The computer said it begins in utero, in the first eight weeks.

    What is a father, let alone a six year old, do against nature?

    For now, we wait.

    • I always debate sharing true stories in fiction (twice so far, including my current submit, I’ve done it). Some might find it grotesque but I feel that writing is therapeutic and if opening ourselves up to vulnerability is uncomfortable for someone, they can move along to the next fiction. Your story is all the more powerful for being true.
      Still praying.

  67. The Newlyweds
    (208 words)
    No one plans to spend their honeymoon in the middle of a desert, but my life had rarely gone according to plan. I’d suggested a simple cruise down the Rhine, but Fred wanted to start our life together with the ‘adventure of a lifetime’.
    My new husband had many talents, but alas navigation was not chief among them. We’d traversed wild jungles and precarious cliffs, sweltering swamps and beast-infested waters. And yet it appeared we had not arrived in Morocco as dear Fred had been sure she would, but rather found ourselves in the oppressive grip of the Sahara. My man had squared off against nature time and time again since our plane had gone down, and as he tore the tie he’d so stubbornly kept on from his neck, it finally seemed as if he might succumb.
    But I wasn’t going to let that happen.
    At first I thought the behemoth rising from the dunes was a mirage. But my husband’s semi-delirious laughter proved that was not the case.
    “Fred darling,” I picked the tie up from the sand, “it won’t do to fall apart now.” I slipped the tie around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss, “I did say I fancied a cruise.”

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  68. Where The Timid Things Dwell

    “And it was still hot.”

    Wren closed the relic bound by tape and adoration. Around her voices barked orders, feet stampeding across the ship’s deck. She sucked on her drip-tube, the bitter water of the condense-pouch as warm as the sun beating down.

    Hands shading eyes, Wren gazed out at the various ships lying prostrate on the desert floor. Squat beasts, whose residents waited to see if Project Old Faithful, her father’s dream, would become reality.

    Mind racing, Wren parted the fading pages. Max staring back from his sailboat beside a beautiful tree growing from blue-green water.

    Wren had never seen a tree, let alone an ocean. Her father had once told her that air had come from trees not factories. That before the age of wastefulness forests had stretched across the world.

    Wren lay back, feeling water under the ship, imagining the dark shade of trees cloaking the sky, spreading life back into the world.

    Another sip, bitter warm water.

    A klaxon wailed, footsteps falling silent.

    Sitting up, Wren felt her father’s familiar grasp on her shoulders.

    They waited, together in silence.

    A dull thud off in the distance, then blue shards erupted, piercing the sky.

    As her father’s tears fell onto her hair.

    @imageronin

    204 words

  69. INSIGHT
    WC = 202, 2-27-15

    “Your yields come too easy,” sneered the Spirits. “We shall alter your thoughts.”

    In a world with abundant Spirit Tears that collected in great rivers from multiple tributaries, the People prospered. They cultured Spirit-sent manna from season to season and from generations past. To the Spirits, their complacency had become a sin.

    “Dam the rivers, People; control the Tears. Work trenches to irrigate the manna we allow you to grow.”

    And the People took heed. Great dams forced the Spirit Tears into languid shallow lakes, while the rivers’ ends became only dry beds. As the People scooped out trenches for irrigation of their manna, Spirits breathed arid winds that offset the moisture. Hardship ensued, yet the People worked the dust as if their own tears and sweat might coax their beloved manna to live.

    But the land became barren, forcing the People toward the lakes. In the knee-deep Tears, a new grain had sprouted, one whose kernels grew on tassels splayed toward the heavens. The people harvested the grain in earnest, using every part of this new plant in the world of Tears behind the dam.

    And the People said: “The Great Floods gave us life: the Great Dams gave us Insight.”

  70. Dirt to Dirt (210 words)
    @brett_milam

    The metal blade of the shovel tasted rustic on my tongue, as dirt spilled over onto my gums. With the next heave, Drake got even closer to my tongue and sliced it.

    At least, before he stomped on my ear, I heard his partner call him Drake. Maybe it was Blake. Or Rick. Hard to say when dirt had congealed with earwax.

    Dirt sat heavy on my chest, pooled in my lap. Dirt when fragmented appeared weightless, but packed together, it felt like a tombstone atop my heaving diaphragm.

    More dirt crawled down the walls of my throat. I tried to cough, but then Drake used his steel-toe boot to cave in my nose.

    Then Drake’s visage was gone, as dirt fell across my eyes, scratching my retinas, making me blink in vain.

    Dad’s meticulous hands came to my mind. In his sawdust-caked workshop, he crafted an elegant ship in a bottle. He had worked on it since before my birth.

    When he was done, once it sat atop the mantle proud and boastful, I smashed it. I wanted the ship to sail. That’s what ships are made to do.

    As for humans, we’re made to breathe. Dirt thought differently, however.

    That’s why we all rested with it in time.

  71. Something in the Water
    203 words
    @FictionAsLife

    Sweat dripped from every surface of James’ body, watering the desert but providing no relief from the heat. After three days, James had all but forgotten life as it was before the desert. He tried to evoke cooling memories of ice cream and air conditioners, but could only feel the dragon’s breath of the sun on his neck.
    A shimmering pool in the distance. Could it be? James had seen too many mirages to get excited, but his pace quickened despite his pleas to it to slow down, to not waste energy. James broke into a run, his blistered feet aching from the effort.
    Closer to the pool, emaciated goats bleated at him. The pool held barely a drink’s worth of sand-soaked water. Desperate, he reached in. He looked around; the goats had stopped bleating. The largest goat approached him with his head down in greeting. James reached out to pet the animal and saw a hoof in the air. The large goat backed away, and James looked down. Brown-and-white fur covered his chest where his shirt had been. In the back of his mind echoed the warning he had received at the beginning of this journey: there’s something in the water …

  72. @GAKulz
    197 words

    In Search of the Squid

    My crew was plucked from the ship, one by one. Like dandelions. Tossed into the sea. All but me. I was the captain, and it was only fitting I be saved last, that I go down with the ship.

    But she didn’t go down. That evil tentacled monster went down instead, but not before it almost squeezed the life out of me. I squeezed the trigger and hit it right between the eyes.

    The damage had already been done to the ship. The ocean heaved her onto the beach, where she embedded herself in the deep sand. The beast followed not long after, borne lifeless by the tides. The sands were barren, so I had to hunt through the wreckage to find my carving knife. It took a long time, but I left a grisly message for someone to find. For my rescue, or, if the days ran out and my body ran down, as proof that I took on the mythical beast, and won.

    I managed to sever the head and a couple of its tentacles, while they were still pliable. I collapsed in the sand, and waited.

    For rescue.

    Or for death.

    S. O. S.

  73. William the Conqueror

    The Conqueror crushed boulders beneath his enormous feet, striding through the blasted land like a child through a sandbox. There were none who would dare oppose him, not since the Battle of the Feast at his last birthday celebration. Many things ended that day, and The Conqueror wasn’t happy. If there is no one to be conquered, who is The Conqueror to be?

    With every step, The Conqueror came closer to the scene of the Battle. The destruction was wide-ranging that day, and The Conqueror had to avoid the remnants of the Seventh Fleet, the Great Rose Garden, and a shrubbery before he came to the epicenter.

    There was naught here but destruction. The grass that was able to grow was forever tinted a fluorescent green. A ring of brightly colored trains were smashed face-first into the bark of an oak tree. And the debris from a dozen dozen dismembered beings would forever stand as a warning to all those who would dare oppose The Conqueror.

    But wait? What was this, over here, near the fish pond? Was that his Bumblebee? And in the water? Hotshot? Mommy said they’d been lost in the Battle. The Conqueror smiled, and strode into the water. There was still Conquering to do, after all.

    210 words
    @drmagoo

  74. She Speaks (191 words)
    @howdylauren

    Progress whisked away into the ocean, visionaries drowned, mesmerized, hypnotized. Artists crumbled into pieces, numerous as the grains of sand, what can they paint that I have not already mastered? How can they be sustained if not by my gracious hand? Let them shout in joyous awe if I allow it. Let them cry out in anguish at my will.

    Monuments built to the sky falter, vainly reaching to my brow, trembling in the shadow of my most recessed molar. The greatest minds marvel at the works of my infancy. Attempted escape, sent down in flames by a turn of my wrist. Ha, and not even the strong one!

    Warriors burned, dried on my scorched scalp, against my fiery eye. The fiercest purged from the earth by my microscopic minions as they succumbed to sleep under my velvet hand. They trimmed my fingernails with their knives, I suffocated them with my saliva.

    The prideful, ever-competing parasite. My lifeblood they savor, my lifeblood they need, yet my lifeblood they soiled. What hope have they, when they bite the hand that feeds them?

    After all, Mother can give, but Mother will take away.

  75. The Waters of Earth
    by JM6, 207 words, @JMnumber6

    We found the ship where it had lain for a century. The ship had once roamed a great sea, delivering cargo and people, forging connections among humanity where there had been none.

    Mother Earth had been angry with us and, yes, she had every right to be angry. We had poisoned the seas, caused mass extinctions, and fouled the air with chemicals never meant to exist on this planet. In retaliation, she had done her level best to take away our water, to destroy us. She had dried up the life-giving rivers which led to the sea and then dried up the sea itself, turning a once fertile region into a dry desert.

    But in doing so, she had inadvertently saved that ship for us. Other ships managed to escape to the oceans. Rain rusted their upper decks. The acid of the seas ate away at their hulls. Locked in a desert, this ship was preserved.

    We attached our barely-tested anti-gravity generators to the ship and nodded in approval as the ship rose from its unintentional drydock. It was again time to seek out humanity, to forge new connections, and to seek new waters.

    I’m sure that weeping sound I hear is just a trick of acoustics.

  76. Interpretations
    A.J. Walker

    The ancient ship stood proud on the crest of the dune. They poked around it making diagrams of unknown consequence.

    “Have you ever seen anything like it?” said the youngest crew member. He was thoroughly excited by everything; this was his first artifact.

    Met with silence he banged his helmet, wondering if his intercom was working.

    They walked through the metallic husk looking for clues, but nothing organic had survived.

    “It’s fantastic!” said the Captain. “The ship must have crashed here many eons ago. It’s cargo and crew we can only wonder at.”

    “It’s a ship?” said one of the tourists, puzzled by its form.

    The Captain nodded as he reasoned his ideas. “Clearly this was some sort of flying vehicle used to transport goods.”

    The youngsters nodded; the Captain certainly knew a lot about Earth – he had visited the planet twice before. The planet was now on several exploration packages so beloved of the young and rich from all over the system.

    “I wonder if we’ll ever find out what life was like on this planet before the sands?”

    “Some scholars suggest that there was once intelligent life here, but the lack of water and atmosphere suggest this is fanciful nonsense. This ship must have been from another planet.”

    (210 words)
    @zevonesque

    • Earth as an archaeological attraction – nice take. ‘There was once intelligent life here … fanciful nonsense’ made me chuckle.

    • “Some scholars suggest that there was once intelligent life here, but the lack of water and atmosphere suggest this is fanciful nonsense. This ship must have been from another planet.”
      Made me chuckle. 🙂

  77. Refuge

    There’s something to be said for war. Nothing good, mind you. But something.

    Landscapes lay littered with carcasses—human, wooden, metal, what have you. The war doesn’t discriminate. But once abandoned, a war-torn carcass can transform into shelter, even nourishment, if you’re desperate enough.

    By the time I saw what used to be the Malika, I was desperate. When I made it inside, I thought I was saved. And I was, from the torture of a relentless sun and the stinging of wind-blown grains of sand, even from the pursuit of army hard-asses. I slept for at least a day.

    But my soul?

    I try not to think about it.

    I can still hear the war, at night, sometimes, but I’m too far for them to find me now. Escaped from the horror of man, now victim to the vicissitudes of the desert.

    Metal bones and human ones offer me supplies for survival as I balance my options. Stay inside and run through my scavenged resources, or venture out with the ones I can carry in a former soldier’s bag?

    It’s not right, stealing from the fallen ones, destroying them.

    But I was desperate.

    (194 words; @AriaGlazki)

  78. Cloven Skies
    208 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    A wanderer rarely finds welcome with the insular derrick-dwellings that punctuate the waste with desperate exclamation points. But a frigate story can.

    A thousand tales cluster around the rusted frigate, tying meaning to the way the sky shivers over it by day and iridescence skulks about its hull by night. None of them end well.

    My voice rises above the flapping sails and growling pumps, and I tell them that love dropped the frigate in our desert.

    Frowns. That doesn’t match the trope. Most tales involve power-hungry Sky Cleavers. They say if a newborn’s first smile comes during a sirocco, he’s a Sky-Cleaver. Such newborns are sand-smothered before their powers can ravage the world. Again.

    I tell them of a woman and her son, their Pre-Cataclysm wars passage on a fishing vessel. One night, a simoom of water blasted the two off the stern. The indigo maw swallowed the woman. Flailing in fear, the first Sky Cleaver tore apart the seas.

    Afterwards, the Matron invites me to stay, most of them do. But I can’t bear to witness the struggles of a people whose every waking moment is spent at the mill wheels.

    All I have is the one tale—one I don’t dare tell in first person.

  79. Abandon Ship
    200 words, @pmcolt

    My earliest memory is of the beach and the surf: man washed up on this tiny speck of land, just a castaway Gilligan, alone with Mother Nature. At first the relationship was amicable. Calm breezes cooled the skin and healed the wounds. Bountiful driftwood and broad tropical leaves were all the shelter that a man needed. Ripe fruits were life-giving, and the bounty of seafood was luxurious.

    But over time the relationship soured. What resources could be scrounged were scarce, never quite enough. The fisheries failed, the fruits were past their peak. As the monsoon season approached, storms gathered on the horizon with alarming frequency. Titanic waves broke violently upon the rising shoreline.

    I began to realize that the ultimate battle had come: the unstoppable force of man vs. the immovable object of nature. In time, one must necessarily yield to the other.

    So I raged against the heavens. I loosed every misery imaginable upon my opponent, and each time was answered tenfold. The vegetation withered. Fire burned the lush tropical island into a sandy Sahara, and the last of my hopes were run aground.

    At long last, I conceded: man had defeated me. They’re practically a force of nature.

  80. Perfect Storm
    by Alissa Leonard
    208 words
    @lissajean7

    “AHHHHHH! Hard to port!” Colton screamed and yanked the ship’s wheel to the left. The wave crashed across the deck, smashing against Colton and threatening to tear his fingers from the wheel. He gripped even tighter and pressed his body against it to stay upright.

    He looked over his shoulder. “AHHHHHH! Secure the rigging!” Scrambling over the deck, he lowered the sail, flapping in tatters.

    “Batten down the hatches!” Colton yelled as he ducked under the rigging and secured the hatchway tight. Slipping and sliding on the slick surface of the deck, he made his way back to the wheel which was spinning madly.

    He caught the wheel and fought with all his might to pull it starboard. His heels dug into the rough planks of the deck and his arms strained with effort. “We’re gonna run aground! Brace yourselves!”

    The impact threw him onto the deck.

    He lay sprawled and panting in the stillness.

    A pounding from the hatch startled him. “COLTON! Open this door!”

    “Coming!”

    “Don’t you ever lock this-“

    “But, Dad, the wave would’ve flooded belowdecks!”

    Dad eyed the state of the room and his son’s costume, eyes twinkling. “Bad storm?”

    “We just ran aground.”

    Dad smiled and stepped aboard. “You’ll need a first mate.”

  81. My tongue feels like it’s too large for my mouth. Water. I need water.
    I sigh and wipe my hand across my damp forehead. I’m surprised I still have any sweat left.
    I squint at the sun. It’s a blazing ball of misery that hangs over me, incessantly, unyieldingly. I can’t escape from it; and, after two days, I’ve given up trying. Two days. A lifetime.
    I see it in the distance: the glittering oasis that will be my salvation. I imagine diving in and lapping up the cool water until my stomach aches.
    Out of habit, I take my radio from my pocket and flip the dial. Nothing. Still dead.
    I press on, determined. The oasis grows larger, and my heart pounds in anticipation.
    Then, without warning, the oasis shivers and disappears. In its place is a hulking mass of ancient iron. A ship!
    I gasp in horror.
    “Mr. Morris! Are you listening?”
    My eyes swim, and the desert dissolves into my therapist Dr. Gordon’s office. I’m yanked back to reality as the looming ship shrinks until it’s the tiny ship in a bottle that sits on her desk.
    “Yeah, I’m listening.” I say, boredom and resentment clear in my voice.
    I’m still so thirsty.

    (206 words)
    @RL_Ames

  82. Foy
    @db_foy
    WC: 209

    Remorse

    What would I say to you, if given a voice? How to tell you, “I’m sorry?”

    We’re bound by strictest laws; directives we dare not defy. Our ways and our wanderings set forth before time was.

    What of those I robbed?

    Your mother, Irish roots recently torn from grassy heights, and commanded to take hold in that strange soil. Ever after, she was a ship marooned in desert ocean. I watched over her, caressed her salty cheeks with zephyric fingers. The garden flourished that year, small apology.

    And your father, coal miner by blood, bore the weight on worn shoulders. He had such plans for you! That day you went out, the dog paced the shore, calling in her guttural tongue, but you didn’t answer. It was a betrayal in his eyes. Why hadn’t she warned them? A week after he took out his pain on her body, unremitting blows until she lay still.

    Your siblings? They didn’t understand. “Where’s Phillip gone?” They’d ask, with never a good answer.

    My sorrow is nothing to theirs but when I remember you, clinging to that skiff, your boots dragging you down; as I relive that moment, filling your lungs, and 12 years of a soul, slipping from your body, it rains.

  83. Nouakchott (207 words)
    @jes3ica

    It was the sound of the ship, wrecking, that most thrilled Esther—the vessel’s innards being unfloated and rearranged in almighty booms.

    She had talked her way onto the fishing crew in a manic fit of uncharacteristic confidence. “Whoa, lady lady, calm,” the captain had said, chuckling. He thought he was calling her bluff by offering her the job, but her pride was monolithic.

    Esther laughed as the ship lurched and bucked her into the sea. Plunging under the water, she released a prayer of gratitude that was cradled away in fat bubbles. A paean to the storm that sliced into her puttied life. Three days a fisherman, she yearned to be baited and caught by the sea. A lifetime playing loose-fish or fast-fish, she ached for the momentum of tragedy.

    Esther’s shipmates—half Portuguese, half Mauritanian—had not spoken to her since she boarded, their faces still and unreadable as pasteboard masks. But now in the fierce waves they sought each other out, nodding with relief and repeating “Okay, okay” in English. Linking arms and floating in a perfect circle toward land.

    Rescue boats approached, bearing the sedative of safety in their wakes. Esther unlinked arms, let her feet float up like a corpse.

    • Never heard of Nouakchott until now – just googled it as well, so thanks for introducing me to it. I can understand her desire for water rather than land after reading about the place.

  84. Too late, but here it is. Had to slash hard to get these down to size, unwieldy beasts.

    Measuring Stick
    209 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    The jackal looms above me from atop the dune. This must be my epiphanal confrontation with red-toothed-clawed nature.

    “Get it over with, already,” I rasp though a thirst-collapse throat. A beast would end this battle of attrition quickly.

    The wedged head drops something from its mouth. A dead jackrabbit.

    Eat up.

    I pull at the carcass. It’s warm. “Thanks.”

    What are you doing here?

    “Proving my worth.”

    To whom?

    I rake raw meat off spindly bones with my teeth. “To my fiancee.”

    I can take you to water. She licks her muzzle.

    Hallucinating or not, I say, “Sure” and follow.

    The sand cascades under my stumbling tread, but at least I can tread. A gully trickles with spring water. My face is reflected next to hers.

    “Actually, it’s for my father,” I admit.

    Teeth overlap in a lupine grin. I drink the taste of copper out of my mouth.

    Over the next few days, she brings me rodents. I dare to believe that I’ll survive. At night, she stretches out against me. I confess, “I came to prove my worth to myself.”

    Against the desert?

    In the middle of the night I awake, her fangs at my throat.

    “Why save me?” I protest.

    You’re not worth a meal half-dead.

  85. Futile Battle
    208 words
    @mfieldswriter

    “Bring me another, would ya?”

    Stu didn’t take his eyes from the metal—it was as flaky as his grandma’s pie crust. He crouched in front of his boat, eyes squinting against the glaring sun as Vicki handed him the can.

    “What the hell is happening here?” he asked, taking it without even lifting his gaze. He should have paid more attention in high school chemistry class; maybe if he understood it better, he could conquer it.

    “Um. It’s rusting?”

    “No shit, Sherlock.”

    Stu heard the front door slam and pulled his gaze from the crumbling metal to look toward the porch.

    “What in the…” What was that discoloration on the downspout?

    He stomped across the lawn and shielded his eyes—damn sun, beating down on him like he was in some freakin’ desert instead of the Portland suburbs.

    The paint was peeling!

    Heart beating harder, he turned back to his original task, but then caught sight of his multi-purpose tool laying in the lawn. Jesus! Had Todd left it out after using it last week? He pulled it from the dirt, and blinked. The blade was as red as the blood pounding in his temples.

    “You’ll never win, oxidation!” he shouted, brandishing his can. “I have Rustoleum!”

  86. JAKE.
    @CliveNewnham – 202 words

    Jake was a nutcase; correction, a bag of nuts. You could tell; it was the slightly independent eyes that never stopped darting about – the jerky way he moved that made it impossible to predict the direction he might take at any moment – and the red whiskers on his chin and ears didn’t help.

    Because of his nature any idea that he had lasted for the attention span of a nut, which explains why he was incapable of questioning a notion, and made him the ideal candidate as lumberjack at the Convertforesttoclapboardandsawdustanddamnthefloodingconsequences Project, ‘building luxury homes in the wild frontier’.

    From the undergrowth deer watched wide-eyed ready to bolt, badgers and foxes crouched prepared to slink away, rabbits scuttled amongst the fern pushing their frightened kits ahead of them.

    He ignored the forest chatter as he approached the first tall pine, chainsaw hanging from his right hand, whirring, ready to rev up and buzz through the forest, echoing. He adjusted his safety goggles, raised the saw.

    And that was when a flood of red squirrels poured out of the tree and up Lumberjack’s trouser legs, led of course by Jake. That was the day when Lumberjack lost his b – bottle.

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