Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 15

**Reminder** Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time, which means we’ve changed clocks for Daylight Savings. **

WELCOME BACK!!  A glorious week behind us; another glorious week lurking in the wings. It was such fun reading your girl-next-door stories as well as Wednesday’s multi-phobic (try on thalassaphobia for size!!) stories. I don’t see how you could write any better this week, even for rapscallion judges Eric & Carlos, but you insist on doing so anyway. You always do. And would I please stop with the italics already?! 

OTHER STUFF: What a blast the Tuesday #Spotlight interviews have been so far; be sure to take a peek at them if you haven’t! This week we had editor extraordinaire Jeff Gerkelast week was powerhouse freelance writer Carol Tice. Coming up March 27 will be four-time FF champ Betsy Streeter, to celebrate the April 1 launch of her first novel, Silverwood.   Which {BRAG ALERT!} I currently hold in my very own talons. I’m taking a break from #Spotlight this week to finish reading so I can drive Betsy mad with questions.        

WALL OF FLAME: Starting TODAY, writers can begin claiming eligibility for a MARCH badge. Remember: prizes at calendar year’s end from among those with the most badges in 2015! Details and the names of our fabulous Ring of Fire badge holders here.


DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Three, which means it’s our way-too-innocent-looking dragon captains Eric Martell & Carolos Orozco. These guys beg you for unpredictable stories, unforgettable characters, and properly placed commas. Which, frankly, I find rather nervy for two captains who’ve spent the last few weeks napping beneath igneous rocks; but then, they’re dragon captains and I suppose one oughtn’t be surprised.      


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

Now, take aim and write!

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

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title/byline) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.


(1) Required story element (this week: setting. The below setting must play a central role in your story–HINT: “central role” does not mean “vague reference” to.):



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:


Night Archer. CC2.0 photo by Tanakawho.

Night Archer. CC2.0 photo by Tanakawho.

365 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 15

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 209

    War Games

    I sit here, surrounded by gravel minions, a thousand tiny soldiers with misshapen rocky heads filling my armies.

    They never asked for an archer to lead the troops. They expected a commander with the voice of the seven thunders. Instead, my name was drawn.

    Bill. The Eye of the Eagle.

    I stand, pulling the shaft to shoulder height, and sight along the straight arrow. My arm is strong, my stance sure. The minions sound their war cry across the parking lot.

    My target cowers before me, arrayed in gown of garnet and pearl. Her hair plummets in tumbling cascades over her shoulders, a river of darkness that swallows her waist in its currents. Her eyes plead with me, her trembling lips open in a whispered petition.

    A cry from behind jerks my attention from the target.

    The enemy has split! An unforeseen flank rises from the darkness.

    “Bill Jensen, didn’t I tell you to get out of the parking lot? You’re terrorizing your poor sister and running the risk of getting hit. Do you want to die?”

    No, I sigh, sliding my arrow into my quiver and shouldering my bow for a different day, a different fight. Another time, I promise my minions. We will give them hell.


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 203

    Target Practice

    Park your car and walk with me,
    That we will speak of what may be.
    You’re my son, and I’m your dad—
    So much discussion to be had.

    Life, you see, slides by too fast
    And someday soon will be my last.
    There’s one important thing to hear,
    and one big thing that you must fear.

    The main things you must seek to do:
    Love your friends, your family, too.
    Do not hold back or seek to harm,
    To throw a fit or cause alarm.

    You see that car that sits right there?
    Rustlined, dented, paint scratched bare?
    Just a little polish might
    Have saved that car from its dark plight.

    The thing to fear is this, my son,
    Loss of love leaves only one.
    One is lonely, one is sick,
    Like that truck, see? Look there, quick!

    No one’s touched it, not for years.
    Sold for parts, stripped for gears.
    It’s rusted in this parking lot,
    Untouched by love, left to rot.

    Fear the life not kept by love,
    Seek your guidance from above.
    Aim straight, aim true; your target lies
    In holding on to friendship’s ties.

    So press the brake and turn the key.
    Park your car and walk with me.


  3. Daichi’s Parricide
    198 words, @pmcolt

    From the time Daichi was born, he lived in a world divided. The only son of a temple priestess and a foreign investor, he witnessed many heated arguments during his childhood.

    When Daichi’s father revealed plans to turn the venerated Statue of Ryuu into hole 18 of a mini-golf course, tempers flared throughout the community. “Shame on him,” whispered the elders, “for his blatant disrespect for our traditions.”

    “Shame on you,” whispered others. “He obtained the property rights fairly.”

    “New construction will bring needed jobs,” argued many underemployed youths.

    The battleground was the new asphalt parking lot. Protesters gathered defiantly, chanting to drown out the rumble of the bulldozers and the shouts of their rivals.

    In the heat of the conflict, a hooded black figure emerged from the woods. Striding wordlessly across the parking lot, he drew back the bowstring and let fly a flaming arrow.

    The arrow hit its mark, igniting the sacred statue and nearby construction equipment. Fueled by ancient wood and modern diesel, the conflagration swept across the parking lot. As the community fled the conflagration, they were united in their hatred for Daichi’s reckless endangerment. But they all agreed it was an impressive bonfire.


  4. Warrior’s Song
    (208 words)

    Hirokin grasped his midsection and collapsed to his knees. He winced in pain as he looked at the two arrows protruding from his abdomen. When Hirokin heard the waraji scraping on the asphalt behind him, he knew his battle was over. But at least it would be an honorable death, one worthy of a true warrior. Hirokin held his head high, awaiting the stroke of the razor sharp blade. He may have been a lowly archer, but he would die with the courage of a Samurai. Hirokin raised his voice for one final song.

    Akito approached the kneeling archer with caution. He knew all too well that a wounded enemy could still be dangerous. When Akito heard singing, he cocked his head to the side in an effort to hear the song better. When he recognized it, Akito joined in, gliding on the asphalt in time with the singing. Akito stopped when he was directly behind Hirokin and raised his sword above his head.

    Akito swung his sword towards Hirokin’s exposed neck. He stopped just before making contact.

    After a brief moment, Akito and Hirokin stood up, turned around, and bowed.

    The crowd stood and applauded.

    Parking lot Kabuki Theater was becoming a hit all over Tokyo.


  5. The Arrow
    by JM6, 210 words, @JMnumber6

    He prepared *the* arrow, the one he’d carried since he was a boy, the one which was to be used only in the direst situation. He had not used the arrow when his lord’s armies fell to the shogun’s ambitions. He had not used the arrow when his family was slaughtered by renegade samurai in the civil war that followed. The arrow was not intended for such minor occurrences in a man’s life.

    The arrow was a gift from a kitsune. Not just any kitsune, who were mostly trouble-makers to be avoided if possible and destroyed if necessary. She was a nine-tailed foxwoman who had taken his father as her lover and killed him in a terrible accident. In penance, she poured a piece of her spirit into an arrow of purest white.

    “This arrow can be used only once,” she said, “but it will not miss. Use it well. It may be the saving of your world.”

    He nocked the arrow and drew his bow. In the building on the other side of the parking lot in which he found himself, the woman who would invent time travel and doom the world was about to have an idea.

    With silent thanks to the kitsune, he let the arrow fly.


  6. “Lame”
    Josh Bertetta
    210 Words

    Flea didn’t reprise his role. They instead gave it to Adam Ant.

    Sometimes it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie.

    But the more you do so, the less trustworthy the dog.

    The Goonies is one thing, but this?

    I can only scratch my head.

    And why this role in particular? Because he’s a Buddhist and they equate Asians with Buddhism or something?

    I took the job. I need money. I was an extra in the original and they wanted me back. Continuity and all. Audiences like that. Heck, I even got a line this time. I’ll see my name in the credits. I’ll bring my family to the screening. Mom will be so proud. She’ll tell everyone back home I’m a famous Hollywood actor like Gary Busey. My line is “Sayonara bitches!” Then I get to give a derisive laugh. I know it’s not much, but at least it’s on location.

    For now I just watch and wait to say “Sayonara bitches!” That’ll make me famous. People will be saying it. They’ll make memes out of it.

    Last time Walter Sobchack beat the shit out of the nihilists, right here, on this very parking lot. But since Walter died, they decided on a night archer. Lame.

    And “Action!”


  7. @bex_spence
    196 words


    The arrow was pulled from the quiver, dipped in accelerant and set alight. Fire flying through the air, a rainbow of flames soaring. Burning through the sky. It whistled past the abandoned cars,dented and corroding, past the drunks with their paper bags and absent eyes. The fire they didn’t see reflected in their pupils, flames burning strong, orange and reds, with a heart of blue.

    He ducked behind a car, not quite wanting to see it hit. It overshot landing in the tree past their party. The popular kids, the cream of school. Always gathered in the disused parking lot, thought it edgy, thought it cool. The arrow flew too far, they hadn’t even noticed. He quickly re-bowed, sent arrow after arrow into their huddle,

    The whistling grew louder a rain storm burning down tonight. Some of the arrows fell, clacked on the tarmac, burning out too soon. With the drumming of arrows and the flaming sky the elite group noticed. Finally. They saw him.

    Firing a final arrow, he looked into the group, Saw the chaos, the calm distinguished by flames. He tuned and walked away not wanting to watch, happy with his disarray.


  8. Eric Doesn’t Care for Titles
    Josh Bertetta
    209 Words

    Carlos, who loves his layers, dressed himself in as much flash as he could muster; Eric, who had problems with titles, couldn’t decide on whether to be a Duke or an Earl or a Baron. So he said “blank it” and dressed up as an English teacher.

    They mused over who would be in attendance and placed their wagers on who’d have the best costume.

    And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as they pulled into the Shenandoah Valley Convention Center’s parking lot they counted one, two, three Night Archers.

    “Oh shit,” whispered Carlos.

    “What’s the matter?”

    “Dude, see Rebekah there? She’s a dragon. The archers might try to kill her.”

    Carlos ran after her and suggested she remove her wings to resemble a Chinese dragon. She’d be safer that way. Rebekah understood, but having arrived late, fretted over having to walk all the way across the parking lot to store her wings.

    “My car’s right over there,” said Carlos.

    “You sure?”

    “Of course.” Carlos patted his many coats’ pockets. “Shit. Oh shit.” He grimaced at Eric.

    “What’s the matter?” asked Rebekah.

    Carlos scanned the asphalt. “Oh no, we’ll never find them here. It’s too dark.”

    “Your keys?”


    “What did you lose?”

    “Lost? No. Just misplaced my commas.”


  9. The Revenge of Mr Henry
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    210 words

    Gerald knew it was his time. He’d completed the gruelling on-line course, never missed a session. He had read the books, watched the videos, practiced in secret in front of the mirror. He’d blocked out all distractions as the grand master taught, even when his mother shouted up stairs, ‘Gerald, what you doing up there,’ or ‘you’re tea’s ready, it’s going cold.’ He’d suffered the bruises in silence when he kicked the bed or chair by accident. He’d used all his savings and taken advantage of the fifty percent discount if you bought all the handcrafted, genuine reproduction “first apprentice” accoutrements at the same time.

    Gerald knelt as prescribed, seconds became minutes that blended into hours. He was ready. He ignored the itch from the rough fabric that he suspected was at least part viscose and not the purest cotton as advertised. His mind drifted back to the parking lot six months previous. The shame still burned deep. He called on the master’s teachings and focused his ‘chi’, or was it ‘cha’, no he was sure that was an old word for tea. Prepare the body, toe to foot, foot to leg, leg to torso, torso to head. Knuckles cracked. He was ready. No-one insulted his teddy bear, Mr Henry.


  10. (201)
    Carolyn Ward @Viking_Ma

    Love Struck

    The archer hid amongst the parked cars, waiting. The moon was high, and the shadows long. His fingers quivered with tension, when he saw his first victim. A woman was striding back to her sports car, briefcase in hand. He shut one eye, and aimed his bow.
    The arrow flew true, piercing her in the heart. With a gasp, she fell to the floor, the briefcase tumbling open and papers falling out. The archer nodded to himself. One down.
    Now the other. He had to wait many minutes for the next candidate, a tall man with a hipster beard. He was tapping into a mobile phone. Again, the archer eyed him and aimed for his heart. The arrow hit with huge force, knocking the man off his feet. The phone flew through the air.
    The archer shouldered his quiver and ran off into the night.
    In the carpark, the woman and the man slowly sat up, and gazed at each other, for a long moment.
    ‘What the hell just happened?’ she asked him. ‘Did we get mugged?’
    ‘I’m not sure,’ he replied. ‘But I’d like to take you for a coffee,’
    She nodded, and clasping hands, they clambered to their feet.


  11. Bullseye
    202 words

    We left work every night at the same time and would stand next to each other in the parking lot, under the flickering streetlights, talking about anything but our feelings.

    That night, Mitchell had called in sick. When I asked our boss, he just shook his head and said he didn’t know why. Fumbling with my keys, I dropped them on the white line of the parking space, and when I looked up a vague image was sitting in the distance.

    “Who’s there?” I called out into the darkness of the night. The lights were more off than on that night.

    No answer. I tiptoed across the parking lot, and on his knees with his hands up sat Mitchell. Arrows were sticking out of a sheath attached to his back. He wore all black, blending in completely with his surroundings. My heart beat loud enough for him to hear, as I drew closer to him, facing my trepidation.

    “Relax,” he said, as he turned his eyes to me. “I had an archery competition today. No time to change. But I had to come straight away, because when I looked at the bullseye, Madison, I saw your face. How about dinner tomorrow night?”


  12. “Hustle”
    199 words

    She fell in love. Right there, in the muted shadows of the parking lot. To the gentle hum of the fluorescent lights, and the soft drum beat of the witless moths that hurled themselves against them.

    Her savior, rugged and gallant, drew her in to his warm embrace. She swooned as his lips met hers in holy, exalted rapture.

    He’d rescued her from the would-be assailant. Descended as if from nowhere, leaping across the rusting bonnets, bow in hand. The scruffy, hooded figure that had been following her, poised to attack, yelled out as the arrow hit his shoulder. He turned tail, and fled into the night.

    “How can I ever thank you?” She gasped.

    The heroic stranger smiled. He gave her one last hungry kiss, his hands engulfing her, and then he was gone. Back into the shadows as quickly as he had appeared. She sighed as she drove home, her skin prickling with exquisite excitement.


    From the alley he watched as her car sped off. A hand clapped him on the back.
    “Damn, you actually hit me that time!” The hooded man said. “Did you get her wallet?”
    “Yup.” He smiled, counting out the bank notes.


  13. Sarah Unsicker
    The Dissertation
    196 words

    My dress, red as dragon fire, arrived from the cleaners yesterday. I bought it specifically for today’s presentation. The dress glides over my head and shapes my body perfectly, but displays a blue stain down the front.
    My too-small backup black suit constricts me like a straitjacket and I cannot lift my arms. The tightness causes me to drop my bagel, cream cheese first, on my lap during breakfast. I hurriedly change into jeans.
    Traffic is snarled on Upper 40. There is an accident ahead, and I would get to the presentation faster by walking. Even when I see the parking lot, it takes me ten minutes to reach the highway exit.
    I circle the parking lot five times before I find a parking spot, the furthest one from the lecture hall. I sprint through the rain and arrive looking like a drowned rat. Professor Smith calls me up as soon as I arrive. Breathless, I begin my lecture.
    “The legend of the Organ Mountain dragons is well-known, but has never been researched. As I stand before you today, I can prove it is true.”

    All those years of research, and I fail my dissertation.


  14. Sonic Differences,

    My Japanese boss takes me for a “Western Breakfast.” This is the first time I’ve ventured from the office complex. We pull into a parking lot of a bamboo version of a drive-up.

    “How have you found Nippon?” Mr. Inaba asks from the front seat.

    Japan is almost identical.

    “Japan is wonderful, sir.” All I’ve seen is an office that could be anywhere, but you don’t tell the VP that.

    “Hai. The world is smaller now.”

    Considering his age, it’s possible that his father fought in the war.

    “Will rye bagels work?” Mr. Shoji asks. He’s lower in priority, hence he rides in the back with me. He’s my corporate yujin, that is, he’s been assigned to help me acclimate to Japan. On the first day he introduced me to Mieko, and informed me that dating her would be good for my career.

    Maybe Japan is different.

    The driver orders, then backs the sedan up and rolls down the windows.

    “Are you adept at catching arrows? Mr. Inaba asks.

    “What?” Did I misunderstand?

    “I recommend ducking,” Mr. Shoji says.

    I do as four arrows fly into the car. My coworkers snag them from the air and pull the bagels off them.

    No. Japan isn’t the same—it’s awesome!

    209 Words


  15. @t_i_s_u
    Word Count: 210

    Sparkle and Dust

    As we climbed the hill, bow and arrows slung across my shoulder, the day seemed a dream zone of hazy memories. Fragmented. He liked to come here at night, he said. High above the parking lot, at the town’s borders, where the stars were brightest. In the distance, we could make out the lamp light of vehicles as they journeyed forever to wherever. As he gently touched my elbow, I felt a sudden change of sensation. All was silent, the faraway traffic completely still, as if frozen. He laughed and told me he had learned how to stop time. Nothing special he said. He produced a small mirrored box from his pocket that captured the reflection of the moon.

    ‘Pass me an arrow,’ he said.

    As he unclasped the lid of the box, its contents sparkled in the night.

    ‘Pure moon dust,’ he said. ‘Watch.’

    He took the smallest of pinches, fingertips aglow, and rubbed it along the arrow’s flight. Moon tipped, in bow’s embrace, he took aim at the sky and released.

    Breathless, I watched as the night exploded into a million shooting stars, raining down on the parking lot like iridescent tears tumbling from heaven’s lookout.

    ‘You’ll get used to the afterlife,’ he said. ‘It’s not so bad.’


  16. The Daimyo and The Ronin.
    200 words

    There was a rolling roar, and a crash.
    “They are in the castle,” said feudal lord Yoichi Iyeuso. He looked at the cone of Fuji-yama, It’s snow-capped peak wore a light shawl of cloud.
    “Hai,” Tamotsu Kinara assented. The face of his master, so long impassively strong, now revealed the frailty beneath.
    “It is time,” said Yoichi.
    Tamotsu moved swiftly, sweeping his dai-katana and skewering his master’s stomach. Yoichi coughed blood, his eyes begged for answer.
    “You have dishonored us, Master.” Tamotsu said. “You deserve nothing.”
    Yoichi reached for the last of his inner strength. “I curse your generations,” he said. “You are Ronin.”
    Tamotsu turned away. Yoichi coughed, and collapsed.
    Lights cut on, flooding the repurposed parking lot with light. The director strode across the asphalt towards the actors.
    “We have this backdrop for four hours,” he shouted, “four hours before it get’s filled up with all those tiny matchboxes everyone drives over here. Is there any chance you guys could put some life into this?”
    He turned and stomped away, leaving wardrobe to deal with changing Yoichi’s costume.
    The actors looked at each other wearily.
    “Gaijin,” said the one playing Iyeuso.
    “Hai,” replied Tamotsu.



  17. One Lot to Rule Them All
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    210 words

    I was born here. It’s only fitting I return here.

    Ma had been shopping for final nursery items. You know, onesies, bottles, that stupid blue elephant with the stitched eyes that made him look dead from the start.

    Ma thought she had two more weeks. I had other plans. I was always precocious like that.

    Now, finally, I’m an adult. I’ve reached the apex of my maturity.

    Years of studying and training, days of sore muscles and strained eyes, nights of shadows and blackness as fear wrestled with reality; all brought me to this moment.

    My first shift as parking lot attendant.

    Let the others use their warning tickets, their weird little carts. I come armed with better weapons.

    Took up two parking spaces? An arrow to the tire.

    Paid for an hour but stayed three? Don’t expect to find your windshield intact.

    Dared to park an SUV in a compact space? My bow shall make quick work of your antenna. No longer shall you enjoy the sounds of wailing boy bands as you seek out the best spot.

    You will never have it. For I already do. I am power.

    You won’t see me coming. I am stealth.

    I am One with the Lot. I am…

    The Parking Ninja.


  18. Avenger

    A branch brushed a creeping finger along the aluminum of the work lamp set up at the edge of the forest.
    The two suited men standing at the work table paused.
    “Do you hear that?” asked the grey suited man.
    “The branch?”
    “No, it sounds like…music.”

    “…always seem to go…don’t know what…gone…paved paradise…parking lot…”
    Grey suit recognized bits of Joni Mitchell’s voice that weren’t stolen by the wind. He was going to name the singer aloud when the evening, and Joni were shattered by the drums of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”.
    They clapped their hands over their ears, the plans for their deluxe parking complex flying free without their fingers to hold them down.
    A hulking dark figure appeared out of the woods.
    “Suit-men, I charge you with premeditated murder!” The voice was shredded, like he was a demon, or had a serious head cold.
    “I shall protect this forest!” the man yelled, thrusting a bow above his head.
    The suits spun on their heels and ran for their car, ill-suited to deal with lunacy.

    Carl stepped from the shadows, removing his foam padding, once again a slight seventeen year old boy, and smiled.
    “The forest is safe again…for now,” he growled.

    209 words


  19. The Man in the Car Park

    It was the first multi-storey car park outside the M25, you know. Not the sort of place I’d have expected something like this to happen.

    He was either in fancy dress (standard or cosplay) or a time traveller. A medieval Japanese archer is, I guess, how you’d describe him.

    It was the way that he was kneeling that caught my attention. It reminded me of the start of the film, 13 Assassins, and I began to worry I was about to witness a ritualistic suicide. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the scene, to miss the drawing of the blade, to be able to shout as loud as I could but I was in an office block across the street. The only realistic chance I had of stopping him was to run.

    And run I did- like the wind, like the wolf in Princess Mononoke- out her office, down the stairs, out the door, into the street… where I stopped dead. Our man was leaving the car park with a Geisha, hand in hand.

    Still. It stopped me from shagging my boss. On the walk back to the party I re-thought the whole thing.

    196 Words
    James Atkinson


  20. A Potted History
    (210 words)

    I know the first sentence should seduce- draw the eyes down through promises that eventually yield to gratifying denouement. But maybe it’s too late for that, and so maybe I’ll begin at the end: a car park.

    So where is the middle of this story? It itself sits somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the heart of England, in the middle of conflict.

    This Geezer, our flawed protagonist, has lost his way- petty at first, but it escalates.

    Henry (for this story’s purposes) the villain, sends his henchman to sort him out.

    The Henchman’s usual weapon of choice is the bow. Today, at Henry’s request, he has a blade.

    So The Henchman finds it harder than expected to chase This Geezer down. He’s faster than reports would have you believe.
    But The Henchman’s no slouch. He gets his man. He brings his blade down on his skull. This Geezer’s dead within the first two blows. But The Henchman
    enjoys a bit of theatre, keeps going.

    Turns out, Henry was never concerned about the kids in the tower block or This Geezer’s missus disappearing. But it helped sway opinion.

    Long story short: This Geezer’s important; his remains only show up hundreds of years later in a car park.


  21. Clan Fests (207 words)

    The many small clans were tucked deep into valleys separated by a mountain range that remained a line of demarcation understood for centuries as a clear boundary. Each city was wholly self-sufficient. To ensure a healthy blood line, families participated in The Exchange Festival held at the Emperor’s temple at each Spring equinox. Men were packed shoulder to shoulder into the royal parking lot and made to stand completely still. At the perimeter of the lot stood archers dressed entirely in black, their arrows tied with colored ribbons representing their respective clan. Arrows were shot straight up in the sky, would turn at their zenith, and race down to strike one of the men below. The dead man’s family would then become members of the archer’s clan. While the sacrifice of healthy men seemed brutal, the exchange of a child-bearing woman and healthy children more than made up for the loss. The Exchange Festival worked for over a thousand years. Recently a new enlightened Emperor took power and realized that he could instead hold an annual Spring Fling Festival wherein women were impregnated by men from other clans and then simply went home. His Kingdom flourished and everyone was pretty damn happy.



    Brian S Creek
    207 words

    CASE NUMBER – 07-110979

    LH: Start at the beginning.

    JM: I’d just clocked in when we got the call. As the closest unit we headed to the scene.

    LH: The car park on Kapioloni Avenue?

    JM: Correct. Upon arrival we found a crowd. Officer Jakes controlled the civilians while I closed on the cause of the disruption.

    LH: This would be the ‘ninja’.

    JM: Yes, sir. He was knelt in the centre. I announced myself and informed him that he was causing a disturbance. He didn’t move, didn’t react. I then noticed he was armed.

    LH: Firearm?

    JM: No, sir. A sword. As a precaution I drew my sidearm and advanced. That was when I heard him.

    LH: What was he saying?

    JM: Not sure. It sounded Japanese. I think he was praying.

    LH: Praying?

    JM: Yes, sir. I then informed him that he was under arrest for possession of the weapon. He turned to me and said, in English, “I’m here.” And then he faded.

    LH: Fainted?

    JM: Faded. Like a ghost.

    LH: I don’t understand.

    JM: Me either, sir. But I’d like to dig up that parking lot.


  23. Title: Heat
    Words: 210

    “Someone help!” I screamed, dropping my bags of brand new aluminum arrows. I banged on the car window as hard as I could frantically trying to break the glass. It was a hundred degrees and there was a sleeping baby in the back seat; forgotten and left to die in the hot box. Others in the parking lot ran over to assist me to get the car open and the baby out. A man approached at the driver window and smashed it with a hammer. It still had the tags on it from the store. He unlocked the doors. I reached in for the baby and felt the stale hot air kiss my face. In spite of the heat, the baby was cold. An ambulance whirred as more people gathered in the parking lot to see about the commotion.

    I didn’t know ambulances carried infant body bags. It was shorter in length than the arrows in my own shopping bag.

    No one claimed the car or the baby.

    I still go to that parking lot every night, my archery equipment in hand. Watching and waiting for the owner of the abandoned car to appear. I grip the aluminum arrows, unable to feel anything but the cold stillness of the baby.


  24. Sunrise on the Musashi Plane
    210 words

    Hirari flew through the bamboo forest. The arrow arches, a perfect parabola, hits a target no one else could see.

    In the morning, Hirari greeted her colleagues in the parking lot of the Institute for Future Science. All of them were forward-thinking visionaries. They drove electric cars or hybrids. Hirari rode a bicycle.

    At night, she met her master, a ninja who came through a portal in the parking lot. So silent and swift was he, not even the frogs in the pond were disturbed. No ripple, no splash. This is how fast the mind moves.

    It was her mind he came for. There would be a battle, on the Musashi Plane, and she was needed. This is what she trained for.

    Hirari watched the gulls on the plane of the parking lot, swooping for French fries. Her friend Greg, from Archives, came with coffee. “So, what do you think about Saturday,” he fumbled, “Want to go riding somewhere?”

    “I may have other plans,” she said. Then, seeing the disappointed look on his face, she relented. “Maybe.”

    Friday night was a full moon, and the ninja appeared. “It’s time,” he said, “Are you ready?”

    The moon rose over the parking lot, as Hirari greeted the sunrise on the Musashi Plane.


  25. Mary was Alone (207 words)

    Miss Smith wrote the five words on the blackboard: ‘Mary was alone at home’.
    “Now finish let’s finish the story together,” she invited the students.
    Mary trembled. It was happening again in broad daylight.
    “Mary? Stop daydreaming. Could you give us the next line?” ordered the teacher.
    How could she know the child was struggling with a recurring nightmare?
    “Let’s give Mary some ideas to proceed with the story. Can I have a second line from someone else?”
    Mathew put his hand up and spoke, “She saw him watching her from across the parking lot, opposite her bedroom window.”
    “Sounds good. Does that help, Mary?”
    She shook her head, thankful that her hair covered her tearful eyes.
    “He took pictures of her as she undressed,” continued Mark.
    “He shared them with his friends on Facebook,” volunteered Peter.
    “Can you continue now, Mary?” asked Miss Smith.
    “She’s a nervous wreck, because she can’t eat, sleep, or study.”
    “Change that line for: ‘she enjoyed the attention she’d never had before’.” Luke smirked.
    “How does the story end, Miss Smith?” Mary asked desperately.
    “She tells her teacher, who helps her understand she’s a victim of bullying and needs help.”
    “She better not, Miss. Teachers’ bedrooms have windows, too,” warned Shirley.



  26. Character Assassination

    “…something of interest… concerning your last novel… Level 9… town centre car park… come alone.”

    Even a retired crime writer can’t resist such an invitation.

    I’m standing by my car. A glint in a darkened cornered… a violent blow slams me against the vehicle. Pain radiates through my chest, crimson flowering around the bolt.

    As I sink to my knees, he leaves the shadows: tall, well-built, military bearing, the crossbow still at eye-level.

    It’s Masterson… from my final novel!

    “Was it you…”

    “Aye, laddie! Ah killed Lady Agnes!”

    “Your accent! You’re… Lord Clembury’s quintessentially English butler!”

    “Ah played the part tae get the job, numpty! Ma real name’s McMasterson! Ye ken naething aboot ma back story!”

    “But… you were a minor character.”

    “Nae more! Ah’m ca’ing the shots noo! Ye dinnae care aboot yer… creations wunce ye’re done wi’ us. Ah stayed ohn a’ the big hoos, afore sayin’ ma poor wee Mammy needed me. But Ah’m here… fae ye!”

    Blue lights and sirens bounce off concrete. I show him my iPhone and the prepared text sent to CID contacts.

    “Nae time for the customary exposition! Ye’re the writer; work it oot yersel’!”

    He runs into the shadows as I slump sideways, eyelids closing.

    “No chance now… for a… rewrite.”

    Word Count: 210


  27. Merit Badge (210 words)

    Boy Scouts was not my idea at all. My mom thought it would be a good thing for me to do after my dad died. My favorite activity was archery. We practiced in the parking lot behind the high school on Saturdays. There were round targets that looked like big dart boards and deer figures stuffed with saw dust. It was fun actually, until Mom started hanging out with Mr. Shepard, my Scout leader. She would come early to pick me up so she could talk with him. Soon she was going out to dinner with the guy. She asked if I thought he would be a good Dad. I couldn’t believe she said that. The next Saturday we were in the parking lot and Mr. Shepard was teaching one of the other Scouts to shoot. I took one of the bows and grabbed an arrow when no one was looking. I hid behind a tree out of sight. I was wearing my black wind breaker and felt like a Ninja. When Mr. Shepard was collecting arrows behind the targets I took aim. The young Scout kept saying he didn’t even have a bow in his hand. No one believed him…they said it was a tragic accident.


  28. Title: No Parking Lot
    Words: 209

    There is no parking lot.

    Yes there is! I was there. I got loose gravel stuck in the rubber on my tires. I’m telling you there was a man wearing black and he had a weapon – I think it was some kind of hunting bow. He was standing to the side of the lot, in the grass. It was dark but there was one light focused on a building. It was in the parking lot at Exit 6.

    There is no parking lot.

    I drove on it! I saw the man kneeling in the grass next to it. He matches the description on all the posters. I came right in to this police station like the poster instructed to give the tip.

    There is no parking lot.

    Look buddy, I know what I saw. There is a parking lot. The ninja guy hangs out there. Get your SWAT team together or whatnot and follow the lead to get this guy!

    There is no parking lot.

    You, uh, look kind of familiar, Mister. Have we met before? What do you have in your bag over there in the corner? That looks like a hunting bow.

    There is no parking lot.

    Yes sir, I am mistaken, there is no parking lot.


  29. @awenthornber
    209 words

    Cupid, draw back your bow.

    It wasn’t my choice of job, but last in the queue doesn’t get to pick.
    A naked, chubby, cherub I am not. I can’t hang around unseen in the air, you won’t find pictures of me on valentine cards, or wedding invitations and as far as I know, no one has yet written a song about me, but I do get to carry a wicked set of arrows.
    I’ve been in the car park for two hours , when I see Amelie looking over towards the BMW.
    Sure enough, the target of her affections is returning to his car.
    He stops to talk to a short nerdy guy in a Skoda, then walks on.
    The arrows have been tipped with her musky scent and she will be in his sight. Loves sweet dream. I will soon be two hundred pound richer.
    I take aim.
    A car pulls up, blocks my view, I curse, it pulls away.
    I aim.
    Another car. Drat!
    I see him.
    He’s opened the door to his BMW.
    I quickly draw back the bow, aim, release… “No!”
    “Mr Harrison, wait!” Nerdy guy turns, as the arrow pierces his heart, he spies Amelie. A love sick grin spreads across his face.
    She glares at me.


  30. Justice of the Pavement
    203 Words

    I am the hero the world has been waiting for.

    My master instilled in me a sense of duty. He taught me about honour. I spent my childhood on the pavement of this place. I trained in the dark.

    First I learned archery, so that I might fight enemies from a distance. Second, he taught fencing, with my choice of sword. In the end I chose the katana because I like the way it feels in my hand. I wield it for justice. I wield it for vengeance.

    My master taught me the ways of the world. His curriculum was filled with stories about injustice and unfairness. Some of his lessons he taught first-hand, by denying me the things I truly wanted. What child does not yearn for candy? He put the candy out of reach so I had to climb the pole for it, and when I finally claimed it, he tore it from my hands and fed it to the seagulls.

    “This is life,” he said.

    Today I have graduated from his lessons. The sun is setting over the pavement where I have become Law.

    “Go forth,” my master says, “And make sure no butthead’s ever steal my parking spot again.”


  31. The Traveller
    (209 words)

    It was not at all what Hachiro had expected to find.

    When Hachiro opened his eyes, he expected to see to fog enshrined mountains capped with snow. He thought he would see lush bamboo filled forests, deafening in their silence. Hachiro had studied the traditions and customs of the people. He learned their language and had recreated authentic clothing that would enable him to blend in with the local villagers.

    Hachiro had hoped the sweet smell of blooming cherry blossoms would be carried on the cool, light summer winds.

    Rather than finding a world of beauty and tranquility, Hachiro’s senses were being assaulted by everything around him. Internal combustion engines spewed toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Drivers honked their car horns and cursed as they jockeyed for parking spots. There was no lush bamboo filled forest, just an expanse of black asphalt. Off on the distance, the mountains were enshrined in smog, their peaks devoid of any snow. The only local custom of the people seemed to be yelling at one another

    Most sickening was the putrid smell of old grease being carried on the hot, stifling breeze.

    Hachiro had set the time machine for feudal Japan.

    Instead he found himself kneeling in a McDonalds parking lot in 2015.


  32. Roscoe
    By Katrina Ray-Saulis

    Cassie stepped carefully around the melted tires and corpses that littered the parking lot. Her father had warned her to stay away from wide open spaces, to stay in the shadows, until they knew the invaders weren’t coming back. Her eyes were skipping over the deceased soccer mom in the driver’s seat of a minivan when motion caught her eye. She ducked quickly below the front of the van.

    “I saw you,” a voice said. Cassie squeezed her eyes shut and wished her father was there, or Memere. When she opened her eyes again a boy about her age was standing in front of her. He had a bow and arrow aimed easily at her face. His right eye was hidden behind dark shaggy hair. “Who are you?” he asked.

    “Cassie. My father is on the other end of this parking lot,” Cassie said.

    “Don’t tell a stranger all that you idiot!”

    “Why not? That way you know I’m not alone. Those are the rules if you’re kidnapped.”

    “Rules changed. This is a different world.” He lowered the bow and offered her a hand. “I’m Roscoe. Let’s go find your father.”


  33. A prayer for Amaterasu

    @geofflepard 210 words

    – Sato, the brave Samurai, the last of his kind, adjusted his robes, his family netsuke click-clacking their impatience, as he settled into the traditional pose –
    Eric remembered when his father had brought him here to show him that sunset; Eric saw a functional car park of asphalt and trash, but for his father the lowering sun echoed the Yokohama sunsets of his youth – the one joyous paternal gift amongst grinding lessons of displacement and despair.
    – Sato steadied his hands, holding the sharpened tantō while the dulling sun warmed his face –
    When his father died and his mother left for Tuscon, Eric tried to keep tradition, the little restaurant struggling against the pre-packaged competitors flooding Main Street. The foreclosure took more than his property title.
    – Sato prepared his heart for the welcome he would receive from his ancestors –
    Eric held his father’s favourite boning knife in his right hand, his left gripping the ivory horse carved by his great-grandfather, Sato. Eric fought to stop the shaking; determined not to besmirch the memory of his great-grandfather’s cruellest gift.
    – Sato called to the gods as he performed his ritual Seppuku –
    As Eric’s blood soaked the utilitarian carpark floor and the sun slipped behind his battered Ford, he wept for his many losses.


  34. 2147
    (209 words)

    Meditating on the roof of an abandoned vehicle, she listens to the distant sound of warring tribes. Swords clash together. It’s the ringing sound of shame.
    Closer, there’s the quiet creak of a bow being drawn. She tilts her head to the side, but does not look around.
    ‘You’ve found me, then.’
    ‘At last,’ her pursuer replies.
    ‘This won’t stop them fighting.’
    ‘It will when I give them the head of the woman who’s responsible for this.’
    ‘I did what I did for love.’
    ‘You betrayed your tribe for a childish dream.’
    She opens her eyes, looking across the parking lots at the rusty wrecks littered with overgrown plants that have crept through the concrete over several decades. They represent a lost society.
    When the war is over, the losers will join them, their culture lost too.
    ‘I could run.’
    ‘I’m not alone.’
    Of course he’s not. She can see the shadows of his companions behind vehicles around the parking lot. She’s reminded of why she came here in the first place: to think of everything that has been lost and realise that one day, she will be nothing more than a name.
    ‘Then do what you must.’
    The last thing she hears is an arrow flying towards her.


  35. Battlefield Dealership
    200 turbo-charged words

    Since time immemorial, the souls of humanity have been forged upon the most mundane of battlegrounds, tempered in the fires of chance encounters, fletched by everyday events.

    I just want to know why MY battlefield had to be a parking lot of used cars.

    Virulent hatred is too soft a phrase for the feelings I experience when setting foot on such a tarmac…yet here I was, a long-range archer forced into close combat with the most vile and cunning trickster ever spat from the ninth circle of hell.

    He would attempt to place me in a motorized chariot that I neither chose nor desired – and his desire to separate me from all my worldly goods while doing so was akin to pouring additional incendiaries on an already blazing situation.

    My battle-cry of “Forty-eight hundred, and no financing!” fell on deaf ears, even as my opponent’s snarled “Two hundred a month!” arrowed through the exhaust-laden atmosphere.

    We eyed each other up – taking measure of perceived strengths, weaknesses, exploitable traits both real and imagined as we warily circled within the lot.

    And then broke, offering meaningless pleasantries, going our separate ways to new battlegrounds and more worthy opponents.

    NO SALE!


  36. 202 words w/o title


    Tadich’s leaden feet adhere to the asphalt. The car door stands open. He pats jacket pockets – company ID card, yes, wallet, yes, phone?

    He crawls back in to retrieve the rectangle propped in a molded plastic cup holder by the radio. His knees dig into the driver’s seat. Shaking fingers dump the phone onto grimy carpet. He rummages with one arm, butt in air, slightly sweaty shirt coming untucked from his new slacks. Mirror hanging mementos tangle in his hair.

    Upright again, Tadich rubs his head where he bonked it on the door frame. He installs the phone in his breast pocket and surveys the gleaming square building at the edge of the manicured lot.

    He is five again, wrapped in ‘ninja’ robes, quiver of duct tape slung over his shoulder. Arrows from his older sister’s plastic play set. Walking across concrete painted with shapes and letters in happy educational colors. The new kid, on Halloween of all days.

    Breathe, stop sweating, tuck in shirt. Stop sweating.

    He performs a second jacket check and steps forward. Future and past collapse into an effort not to trip on the curb.

    A straight concrete path mercifully paves the way to the front door.


  37. Spectacle


    Boyd Kuznetsov’s knees quivered, then collapsed underneath the weight of his listing torso as his head tumbled from his shoulders, a geyser of blood spurting from his neck into a cloud of fine red mist.

    Rasputin stood up from his stance, took a silk rag from within the folds of his gi and wiped slowly along the length of his sword.

    There were better ways to kill a person – cleaner, quieter ways – but certain jobs required more of a spectacle; this was one of those jobs. Few escaped death by shifting between dimensions, and certainly none of his marks, but there had been a group of them using this particular locus as a staging post. This could not be tolerated, a warning had to be sent.

    He sheathed his sword, rolled up his sleeve, tapped and swiped at some of the pictures and text scrolling across his forearm. He looked at the corpse, at the blood, then up and around the empty parking lot.


    166 words (whoops)


  38. Mark Morris – Hortense’s Lot – 205 words

    Another crazy driver! What was it with this place today? Hortense jerked her wheel quickly to the left, nimbly dodging the sheer face of the four-wheeled drive weaving to the left and right, its driver flashing his headlights AND sounding his horn. Such an inconsiderate dolt! And him with a pair of children in the back!

    She sighed, finally locating a space, wedging her Camry into position between the trolley park and a beat-up traders’ van.

    Grabbing the hand-hold near the roof, she hauled herself clear of the seat, sticking first one leg and then the other out through the open door. Dandling herself up and down a moment, she managed to bring her weight down onto her feet on the asphalt beside the car, using its roof for support as she crabbed her way around to the trunk where her support frame was waiting.

    “And what do you think you were doing?” the apoplectic red-faced man snarled, pushing his face directly in front of hers. “Didn’t you see the arrows?”

    Hortense’s face crumbled, her hand groping to find the lanyard hanging around her neck. “Young man,” she said, bringing the longette up before her face, “without these, I’d struggle to even see the Indians!”


  39. The Army You Have
    by Bill Bibo Jr

    “Lot Q, 8:00.”

    Hannibal reread the note and surveyed the empty parking lot. Why had he decided to come? His plans that night were simple . Pizza, beer, and then conquer Ether World. He was top of the kill list in the hottest video game on campus. That was until Monkey King began to play. Hannibal hated the Monkey King.

    Wait, there was someone. In the far corner a ragged old man sat on a lawn chair next to a folding table.

    “Who the hell are you?” the man said when Hannibal approached.

    “Who am I? Who are you? I’m meeting someone. I got this note.”

    “I was expecting something different, sightly more athletic. Maybe I got it wrong. No matter. A famous general, maybe it was some political schmuck, I don’t know, once said that you go to war not with the army you want but the army you have. Kid, looks like you’re the army I got.”

    He pointed to the table. There waited a black robe, a samurai sword, and a bow with two arrows. And another note.

    “What’s this?” said Hannibal picking up the note.

    “The address of the Monkey King.”

    (195 words)
    newbie to this contest and learned about it through a past winner


    • Welcome, I joined late last year and still feel a newbie but everyone’s been really welcoming and supportive – which is why I keep coming back. Nice to see Hannibal gets to take revenge on his nemesis.


  40. Word Count 210

    Hate this parking lot it’s scary. A bugger spits on my shoe, runs off. No reason, apology, nothing. I hang my head in shame and say nothing. I’m ashamed of my apathy, my fear. The fellah on my left says “Bastard, no respect”. I say “thanks”. Why am I thanking him? For his observing the no respect or is he talking about me that I’ve no respect for myself. I want him to karate chap him into next week but I’m the invisible middle-aged woman noticed because someone spat on me.
    If they smiled, I’d smile. I can hold a conversation and on occasions I’m witty, never a looker but an ok personality. When did I disappear?
    Here’s the tram I daren’t talk to anyone, be intruding. Well that’s my opinion. Is the problem mine? Some vibe, or is society sinking into everyone for themselves mode. Not needing or wanting interaction.
    I haven’t wiped the spittle. It reminds me that change is needed. I hug myself the teenager across squashes himself into the window he’d crawl through it if he could. He thinks I’m nuts, I giggle. Any wonder I’m alone? I amuse myself all the way home, sometimes the best company is your own, only sometimes, worth remembering that.


  41. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 210

    Memories of My Father

    It had been years.

    Grass still poked through fractured concrete, yellow lines fading but the memories fresh.

    “You lookin’ to buy?”

    Pebbles scattered beneath her heel as she turned. An old man in paint-stiff overalls watched her. Chewing tobacco tucked in his lip soured the air.

    “Just looking.”

    “You from around here?”

    Noelle’s mind slipped back.

    “Santa got me a Polly Pocket.” Maggie parading pink plastic under her nose until Noelle pushes it away.

    “Daddy gave me a Kaiken!” Holding a sleek, wooden box, she raises the lid. Pride blooms for the indigo dagger snuggled there.
    Maggie’s scream sends winter birds scattering from bare branches.

    “A weapon? For a twelve year old girl?” Maggie’s mom chides.

    “She’s gotta learn self-defense.” Daddy is unwavering.

    “God made men to protect women.”

    “And when they don’t?”

    Daddy cups her hand in his as they pound the uchiko along the Tantō’s blade, silky choji oil on her fingertips. Between them and pavement, bamboo mats scent the wide air with straw.

    “Breathe in.” His voice is warm in her ear.

    She grips the ray skin, Katana held steady.

    “Breathe out.”

    Bamboo skin schluffing off under her diagonal cut.

    Noelle blinked. His plants still grew, reaching for heaven.

    “How much you sellin’ for?”



    Brian S Creek
    210 words

    I see him as soon as I leave the gents.

    The guy’s letching all over Lisa and not taking the hint. I march over to the bar and pull him back by the shoulder.

    “Hey, buddy,” he says. “What’s with the aggression?”

    “Lady’s with me, asshole,” I say. “You wanna grope someone then stick your hand down your own pants.”

    He ignores my insult and looks at his pint glass. “You gonna buy me another drink, since you made me spill this one?”

    I step closer. “Don’t think so.”

    The bar goes quiet. After the tension thickens just enough, someone shouts, “Fight!”

    Seconds later me, Lisa, the drunk prick and half the bar spill outside to the parking lot.

    “Which one’s yours?” I ask the drunk.

    He looks around and eventually spots his ninja. “That one.”

    I follow his swaying pointer and see a beat up ninja droid hunched over like a marionette hung by its strings.

    “What about yours?” he asks, a foolish grin on his face.

    Before I can answer, Lisa steps in front of me. “Let me get this one.” She whistles and a ninja dressed in black stands without making a sound. It turns and draws its sword, eyes glowing red.

    The drunk’s grin fades away.


  43. @joshbgosh
    205 words

    Parking Lot of Broken Dreams

    Harold spent his life doing unimportant things for unimportant people. 

    He set aside every hope and dream he had as a child, calling them silly and childish, not fitting for a man of his stature. He had a few relationships, women who tried to get to know him, but they always crashed down once they realized the depth of the anger and emptiness Harold carried inside.

    One day, while crossing the lot where he parked his Lexus, Harold noticed a plant sprouting out of a crack in the concrete with a small blue flower blooming at the end. He stooped low to the ground and touched it, caressing the leaves, the petals, the stem. He got down on all fours and inhaled the scent, a thick musty smell that just covered the smell of hot asphalt and exhaust.

    As he inhaled the scent of the flower he felt anger rise. He furrowed his brows and screamed in frustration. He punched the ground, scraping and cutting his knuckles. He marched to his car, removed the tire iron he kept in the back, and smashed the car into a mess of metal and glass and plastic.

    Harold sat on the broken pile and stared at the flower.


  44. Parking by stealth
    205 words

    Gerry had given change and raised the bar for many years, but his retirement passed entirely unnoticed until several users of the Palisades car park found strange missives on their windscreens.

    ‘Parking outside the lines of the marked bay’

    ‘No ticket displayed on the windscreen’

    ‘Ticket expired’

    The new attendant was silent. He pointed to mugshots of upside-down tickets and skewed tyres on the monitor. They paid up.

    The margin of error reduced.

    Mrs Harris stormed to the attendant’s hut with her ‘driving against directions’ penalty. The attendant pointed to her Corsa pierced by an arrow. Rick was one second over time, and his ticket contained a snapshot of the clock at the National Physical Laboratory. The skateboarders on Level 0 found that if they stopped moving, even for a moment, their wheels disappeared.

    Gerry opened his door to a storm of flapping yellow plastic. He passed a hand over his brow. And he led the mob towards the empty hut.

    Mrs Harris screamed and lurched forward as a metal parking regulations sheet crashed onto where Gerry

    – had been standing.

    Gerry had the attendant in an armlock. They couldn’t tell how he was attached to the ceiling.

    ‘Ah, you never lose it…’ he said.


    • Almost feel as if I’m in a parallel universe here with skateboard wheels disappearing and Gerry on the universe. Glad Gerry was on their side.


  45. @stellakateT
    210 words

    Urban Protest

    When plans were announced for a car park across the road I protested loudly. It would be a haven for kids causing trouble. I carried a big banner that kept hitting my friend Mary on the shoulder until she wrestled it off me. Protesting turned out to be a colossal waste of our time but as pensioners time is what we have in truck loads.

    I sat in my tiny flat watching the contractors come and go. It was better than any television programme. I gave them all names and invented scenarios about their lives, the one driving the digger now he had a colourful life. When the Mayor, a middle aged woman with squinty eyes declared it officially open I thought the series had come to an end. How wrong was I?

    Remember that programme with the Buddhist monk called Grasshopper well he came to live in the car park. He’d sink to his knees every night at eleven like he was praying then he’d take one of the arrows out of his quiver and take aim. I never saw the target or whether they’d scored a devastating bulls-eye. I never told Mary about him she already thought I was delusional. I hoped never to see the season finale.


  46. Mugged
    192 Words

    A sick kid means a late night run to the store for some Jell-O and medicine. I guess it was nice that nobody else was in there; no lines at checkout. I fumbled with my keys, trying to feel out the right one since it was too dark to see.

    He’s coming. I saw him as I peeked through the car windows and heard him as he got close. Just get the money and run. My hands were sweating around the knife handle. Just stay cool; he’ll hand over his wallet and you’re done.

    As I rounded my car, I saw someone standing next to the driver’s door. A glint from his knife reflected the parking lot light several yards away.

    “Give me your wallet!”

    I calmly reached into my back pocket and grabbed my wallet. This punk’s voice sounded familiar. “Matt?” Maybe if he knew who I was….

    He knew who I was. “John?”

    I lunged at him and tried to grab the knife.

    As the blood dripped down my hand, I thought:

    All I wanted to do was see my kid.
    All I wanted to do was feed my kid.


  47. F. E. Clark
    205 words


    I wait, dark clad and ready.

    The day shift have gone, the sodium lights have clunked on, the parking lot is almost empty now. Just a more few minutes until it will be clear.

    I glance at the box on the passenger seat beside me. Brush my fingers over my beautiful creations, they are perfect – primed and ready.

    I have spent a lot of time here, waiting: pick-ups, drop-offs, mornings, evenings, weekends. Hidden in plain sight; an impatient mother waiting, to pick up her child from the mall, in her beat up old motor. I have studied the angles, lights, cameras, the sad obligatory plantings. I know the flow of this place.

    I exit my car quickly, shielding the box from the cameras, march out around the back of the shopping mall.

    Running now, tucking my hair into my hoodie. Back around into the parking lot again, I am a different person. I imagine myself a warrior of the night – fast, invisible, deadly.

    The first grenade flies arrow perfect straight, noise shatters around the concrete lot. Moving faster, I carry on throwing until the box is empty.

    Come summer, this lot will bloom with cornflowers, buttercups, cowslips, tormentil, forget-me-nots and poppies.

    An eco-warrior am I.


  48. Being
    (193 words)
    He was lonely. The nightshifts allowed him to avoid the day’s hubbub. He had permission to sleep through the polite exchanges and the intimate whispers, the pitter-patting small texts and the full-blown conversations.
    He took pride in the black uniform few would see. He walked to the car park- he didn’t have a car. Most guys on the graveyard shift would skive. What difference did it make when there were only a half a dozen vehicles in the place?
    It made a difference to Alfie. It maybe made him work even harder. He saw things others didn’t, had another perspective.
    He’d patrol the near-empty car park at regular intervals, but Alfie, he noticed the spaces. He saw what they were and not what was absent.
    He swept away their emptiness with the day’s dust and leaves; he sang to them lullabies that warmed their cool blank air. He’d meditate unihibited in the cathedral of their tranquility. They were perfect. Each and every one.
    When the sun rose and the traffic began to roar, he’d feel exposed by the babelling day, and he’d make the journey home knowing that even the spaces were deserting him.


  49. Too Late

    204 words

    Hide. Don’t hide. Seek. Don’t seek. Follow. Don’t follow. Know. Don’t know … don’t want to know … must know.

    Memories of past mistrustful days stirred inside; the averted gaze, the sulky defiance, an atmosphere so oppressive as to render the family home hostile territory. And when their son started to steal and lied and lied and lied, then he had done the only thing he could and banished him from their home. But it was all coming back, history was repeating itself, only this time it was her.

    Follow …

    He followed her from the house to the store, taking care to remain in the shadows, hooded, hidden. She walked swiftly past the entrance, headed towards the darkness that pooled at the far end of the parking lot.

    Hide …

    Her secret emerged from the pitch, embraced her, held her close.

    He thought he knew …

    He sprinted towards them, cloaked in night, a dangerous stranger.

    They didn’t know …

    The unrecognised son, redeemed, protective, lashed out, sent him spinning to the ground.

    Too late. They knew …

    His head cracked on the unforgiving cement, tearing at the silence, splitting more than flesh and blood.

    Too late. He knew …

    Too late …


  50. A Pirate’s Life for Me
    208 words.

    The ground in front of Jake exploded, sending him sprawling backwards. The parking lot tore chunks from his palms as bits of asphalt rained down on his head. He cursed and scrambled to his feet, searching the darkness for the ninja. A goddamn ninja.

    Another arrow whistled past him, slicing into his ear. Thankfully that one hadn’t been one of the exploding arrows.

    “Enough!” Jake screamed as he turned and ran. His Jeep was on the other side of the antique store’s lot. It may as well be miles away.

    Another thunk behind him. The explosion pushed him forward and he tripped, rolling to the ground. Something skittered along the pavement to his right.

    That effing oil dispenser.

    He grabbed it up. The black-clad figure parted the smoke and advanced toward him, a short sword now instead of the bow.

    “Oh shit,” Jake groaned. He started rubbing the dispenser. He rubbed it like it was Saturday night and his parents were out of town.

    “Yes?” A rumbling voice said, vibrating the old brass.

    “Stop this shit!” Jake screamed.

    “It was your wish,” came the brassy reply.

    “I said it would be cool to see a ninja and pirate fight, not this!”

    “Did you pay for that Beyoncé Album?”


  51. “Don’t ask about Epics”
    (WC – 199)

    Sweat rolled down temples. Wild eyes ran from one yellow stripe to the next in front of a mind that danced crazy like heat on the asphalt. The archer sat tense, ready. Before him were the arrows arranged in three rows of 5, 7, and 5. Each one perfectly carved and fletched for preciseness. The arrows were order that conflicted with the disorder behind the eyes.

    Issy crouched and peered from behind a car, “What wrong with Dr. Jones?”

    Eric answered with humor, “He’s been teaching a little too long!! He takes poetry to the extreme. This is Haiku.”

    Issy stood up, “Oh, it scared me a little.”

    Quietly, Eric answered seriously, “Then don’t ask about epics.”

    “Ask what about epics?” She inquired innocently.

    Suddenly, the archer was gone.

    The heat that once bounced off the black asphalt of the parking lots was suddenly gone. The stop blocks that had channeled rows of orderly parking, now funneled a chilled breeze across exposed skin. The sky grayed.

    The monster Grendel stood leering upon the great gathering hall from the vantage of a black rock, painted with the spilled gold of the Gods. .

    Shivering, Eric responded, “He’ll eat you alive.”


  52. “Bulls-eye”
    by Michael Seese
    209 words

    Uneven and rutted.

    My life is this parking lot.

    Asphalt can be patched. But the fractured foundation remains, lurking, hidden. Aching to crumble again. To truly fix things, you need to start all over.

    The weight of the gun surprises me. This has been the week for surprises. I still can’t believe she moved out. I thought we were strong, stable. Apparently she felt my apologies were just cold patch.

    The parking lot is deserted. Just three cars, belonging to me, her, and her manager, who always stays ten minutes more to close up.


    She leaves the store. I get out, and walk toward her quickly. I want this over with.

    “Gloria,” I say. She jumps.

    “Ted? What are you –”

    “I have something for you,” I say as I pull the gun from my pocket. I hand it to her. “I know it was your Dad’s.”

    She laughs. “Yeah. I’m probably the only girl in the world with a sentimental attachment to a firearm. Thanks. Listen, I… Thanks, Ted.”

    She gets in her car and drives away without asking why I wore gloves in July. And won’t she be surprised when she learns that her precious Colt, as of 20 minutes ago, officially became a murder weapon.


  53. The Path of the Arrow
    210 words

    The voyage starts in Malkuth, the Kingdom, or material existence. Where baby brothers emerge shriveled and blue and eventually take their mothers with them.

    Kenny tightropes the curb, circling the block ten times without a bobble. The purple dome of the Sagittarius Casino illuminates the sidewalk.

    The voyager embarks on the dark path of Tav, bridging the Kingdom to lunar Yesod.

    Kenny skirts oily potholes. Tutti-frutti light bounces off bug-spattered windshields. Atop the dome, blue neon shaped like a centaur-archer shoots for the stars.

    Like the moon’s, Yesod’s light is borrowed, tempting the voyager with astral delights. Where widowers take their grief to spray-paint it silver.

    There was a time the bouncer would send someone to fetch Kenny’s dad. Now Budd is a barricade of tobacco and leather.

    Up a rickety service ladder, Kenny gains the centaur. He crouches between the wings and wishes hard. Harder than at the funeral. Nothing happens.

    Beyond Yesod is the Sagittarian path of Samekh leading to solar beauty. If there’s a heaven, the Archer points the way.

    Kenny teeters on the framework but can’t reach over the bow. His wishes combust like rocket fuel in his belly, and he launches himself at the arrow. Azure light engulfs him.

    Budd races to fetch Kenny’s father.


  54. Mighty Hunter
    (209 words)

    It was the worst job Ming had ever had in his career. An Olympic trained archer should have a better way to make money. He had the full time job at Home Depot that blasted the country on ads, but for all the publicity the pay wasn’t enough to make his life bearable.

    Tonight he was getting paid a respectable rate per hour and using his archery skills. Everything else the grocery store had tried had failed. But discretion and swift retrieval of the evidence were important requirements of the job, and that detail would prove unpleasant. A trained falcon would have been a more classical and efficient method of solving the problem. He’d frequently wished that he had a trained bird of prey, like the skilled hunters of old.

    The security guard had passed by twice, and given him a friendly wave. Arturo knew why Ming was in the parking lot.

    “You can’t believe the mess these bastards have been causing. Crapping on all the cars in the parking lot. One of them even got an old lady on the head yesterday,” Arturo told him.
    His foes cackled as the came in waves of fluttering wings, settling in the trees.

    So many grackles.

    Ming readied for archery practice.


  55. Transportation Vigilante
    205 words

    Kai leans his custom titanium Eriksen, his favorite steed, against the back wall and waits for the evening dark to creep over the parking lot.

    He surveys the terrain of this battle: stinking black asphalt, painted white lines, endless rows of cars. Dark thoughts color his mind: destruction, pollution, roadkill, social decline, concrete jungles.

    He counts six arrows in his quiver and unstraps his bow.

    Kai kneels for a few moments, bow across lap, collecting his thoughts. Nowhere in this pavement landscape can he feel the pulse of earth and sky. The very air has been tainted by the hulking vehicles that surround him.

    He lifts his bow, notches, draws.

    Lets fly.

    The arrow thwaps into the SUV’s tire, releasing a soft hiss.

    For the smog, thinks Kai, notching again in fluid repetition.

    Another thwap and hiss.

    For two-hour commutes.


    For gridlock.


    For acres of asphalt, freeways, and filth.


    For habitat destruction.


    For vehicular manslaughter.


    For petroleum dependence.


    For a narrow vision of convenience. For unhealthy, sedentary lives.

    Kai retrieves his arrows from the rapidly deflating car tires and heads to the next row.

    When will they learn? he wonders as he finishes. The bicycle is so much better.


  56. Samurai Jayce is Publicly Disgraced

    Jenna was driving to work when the phone rang. Jayce was not at school.

    She could stop by the school on the way to work to verify he had arrived late.

    The phone rang again. Jayce still had not made it to school, instead he had been arrested in the school’s parking lot.

    She hung up on the school secretary in her panic. What could he have done to get arrested?

    In her excitement she entered the parking lot way too hot. Policeman who had been chatting, dove for cover. One came up with his weapon drawn, another was drenched in coffee. She ignored them and asked a third, who was laughing hysterically, where Jayce was.

    He pointed to the back of their squad and said, “I figured you were his mom when you drove in here that way.”

    She could just see Jayce’s worried eyes peeking over the seat.

    “Did you know he wore his father’s bath robe to school?”

    “Did you know he brought a kitchen knife and called it his Samurai sword?”

    “Did you know he made arrows out of pencils and feathers?”

    When she found her voice she said, “I only know he stayed up with his father last night to watch Shogun.”

    207 words


  57. Ben and the Art of Not Paying Maintenance
    A.J. Walker

    The court’s verdict was due by lunchtime, when Ben would be expected to hand over all his worldly possessions (with a Promissory Note for everything in his future).


    Ben had learnt during his oriental retreat – it was all breathing. It had been like finding a parallel world; one where he had control. It was the only thing that made him feel better since Roisin had left him and taken their dog – Butch – and Dan his beautiful son.

    Ben would have forgiven Roisin for how she’d left him, but the vile arguments over access had left a festering wound. Vengeance would now be swift and complete.

    He felt the rough concrete wall; its cold reality comforting – alongside his breathing exercises. The barriers were in place on the car park’s third floor ensuring he’d have these upper parking bays to himself. Ben observed the trees outside the courthouse below – judging the wind. It was time; he adjusted the bow, then the quiver to access his three arrows of righteousness.


    The judge was inside court already so would have to wait. First he’d take out his wife and counsel as they walked up the court steps.

    Ben heard a fan belt slipping storeys below; straining to be free – or snap.

    (209 words)



  58. The Forgotten (210 words)

    The dark pus of my brain dripped between the fingers of yesterday’s mistakes.

    I was curled inside the basket of a Walmart cart. There was enough glow from a nearby streetlamp that I could see my hands.

    In another time, in another place, under much different circumstances, the glow would’ve illuminated blood-soaked hands. And a mop of black, curly hair.

    Aarif. He was obsessed with the Terminator. In his broken English, he’d say, “I’ll be back.” Then he’d come back with gifts from his grandmother. An ornate, colorful rug made with patient hands. Lost that.

    I gave him my black sunglasses. On the day of his death. I always did have good fucking timing.

    Found them after the friendly fire explosion, no longer salvageable, but I like to think, containing his presence, a faint echo of what he once was. He was no Terminator.

    Yeah, yeah, it’s a cheesy thought, but I’ll take the cheesy thoughts over the other ones.

    I walk through the parking lot to exercise my legs and I see those ugly fucking yellow, “Support the troop!” bumper stickers. And then when I see the owners, their eyes avert mine.

    In my uniform, they consider me a warrior.

    In my broken human skin, I’m the unseen shadow.


  59. TO FLY

    208 words
    By Alicia VanNoy Call

    I stand at the edge of the lot, where the pavement is cracked by dandelions.

    Here. Under the cover of a storm-wind night. In the spot where you died.

    The crumbling, pitted asphalt. The abandoned factory: rusted, red brick.

    “I’ll do it,” you said. “I’ll fly from the roof and you’ll learn how easy.”

    Our wings had come in at the same time. But I was afraid.

    “You have to learn,” you said. “Or they’ll ground you. Pinioned like an archer’s pet falcon.”

    I stood in a parking stall and watched, eyes slitted against the sun. You climbed the roof, perched, waved.


    That agonizing unbalanced scrabble.


    They ruled it an accident. Only four stories, but you hit the ground just right. Not even enough time to unfold your wings.

    “Promise.” Red leaked from your mouth. “You’ll learn.”

    Now I walk to the spot. I imagine the pavement still warm with your blood. I shrug out of my coat, unstrap the harness.

    My wings spread with the sound of an unfurling sail, glossy, massive. The black-tinged feathers ruffle, catch the rising wind, dragging at my scapulae.

    My feet leave the ground. My cheeks are wet.

    My words are swallowed by a thunderclap.

    “I promise.”


  60. Sagitta Struck
    206 words, @pmcolt

    I stood my ground upon the fresh asphalt. Here I would make my stand, bold as the white paint that striped this parking lot.

    My journey had taken me across the known universe. I had trod barren planets beneath the million suns of a globular cluster, felt vertigo in the darkest intergalactic voids, and seen supernovae of unsurpassed brilliance.

    In that time, I had learned everything except how to escape her.

    She emerged from the metal sphere and immediately assumed human form to mock me. “You cannot beat me,” she taunted.

    I shrugged. “Then I will not fight you.”

    Now I had come full circle, falling backward through aeons of time, to Earth, to a hospital parking lot, on the very night of my birth.

    “Pathetic.” She drew an ethereal weapon that transformed into a bow, then took aim with a strangelet arrow. With the merest flick of her fingers, the assassin in the Coalsack dress loosed the lethal projectile.

    It struck me square in the chest. I collapsed, embracing the smooth pavement as strangelet matter consumed every atom of my human body from within. As she stood victorious over me, I laughed defiantly. Somehow, deep in my soul, I knew I was only going home.


  61. Arrow Conductor
    Sydney Scrogham
    206 words

    “You always pull back.”

    Not today. Today I stand with my feet planted in the parking lot, and I am ready. I will not stand down. My heart is an iron thread stretching from my past to my present. Though I am plucked, I will not waver.

    My black arms flex in my peripheral. The bow sings and my bicep directs the tune. There, at the other end of the pavement, Leigh saunters out of the shattered glass door. We were friends once before the Letter betrayed the Remnant. Before I learned who I really am.

    “Both eyes open.” My voice is nothing more than a faint breath caressing my palm, and my thumb settles by my lips. “Anchor at your mouth.”

    Two Remnant guards in white run up after Leigh. I drop my shoulders and my arm falters in the note of the bow. Has she changed? Her mouth moves up and down, flickering my view of the entrance to that black, gaping hole inside of her. By her hip, her hand pauses.

    That’s exactly how she looked before she last said, “You always pull back.”

    My fingers burst a fresh symphony on the bow. Pull back. Anchor. Breathe.

    Leigh’s eyes widen.

    “Release,” I whisper.


  62. The Magical Parking Lot
    Word Count: 208
    @NomDeBen – This is my daughter’s story I’m posting on her behalf

    I was surprised at what I saw that day, in the parking lot. But then at 12 o’Clock at night in the parking lot of a Kroger store you don’t really know what you’re going to see there.

    What was I doing there you ask? It was a top secret mission, a highly classified one. I was getting chocolate ice cream for my wife.

    I was almost to the store when I saw it. Cars became towering monsters, with huge gnarled teeth. Fairies, Elves, and Dwarfs appeared out of nowhere. Beautiful creatures with transparent wings and strangely colored eyes darted at the monsters that loomed in my way. A small gnome waddled up to me. “Sir should we execute plan C?” I had no clue what he was talking about. “Sure. . . “ I mumbled. I looked in my hands, and I saw a bow and arrows. A huge monster had a tub of chocolate ice cream in his hands. Zzzzt thunk. Went the arrow as it found its mark in the monsters arm.

    They say that I was laying flat on my back in the parking lot. They say someone had hit me with a car. They say I was delusional. I am never going to that Kroger again.


  63. Reincarnation
    (207 words)

    “Energy is not created nor destroyed, all that there ever was, so there is now.” Dr. Howard scratched the words ‘Conservation of energy’ across the dusty blackboard. Physics, the only class I ever failed.

    The sky is above me. But it’s not all puffy clouds and soaring birds. Smog paints the stratosphere in jaundiced hues. There are power lines and buildings framing my spotted vision.

    Last time the sky was cerulean. And I wasn’t alone. There were men all around, sporting musket holes, and trading groans.

    But the time before, the sky was black. So were my robes, my hair, my blade’s sheath. I never saw the arrow coming, but I did feel it burrow into my chest. Blood welled, leaking with each shuttering thump of my foolish heart.

    “The atoms in your body were forged in stars, breathed by mammoths. All that you are will never disappear. It will merely change shape.”

    Warped sirens. The cold pull of blood-loss sinking me into the asphalt. I’ll be the headline on the 6:00 news. ‘Twenty Year Old Stabbed in Broad Daylight’.

    Knife, musket, arrow. Burning in the heart of stars, raining, freezing, digesting, growing, decaying. I feel it all.

    All that there ever was, so there is now.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden


    • The Eternal Cycle. I wonder if it was on the good Doctor’s final exam. One will never know until we do or don’t. Interestingly, NBC News last night with Lester Holt had a story about an 8 year old boy who claimed a past life and knew astonishing details that they investigated and were true. He had even claimed a different age when he died which the death certificate said was incorrect. However, it turned out the boy was right and the official document had an error.


  64. To the point

    I sit patiently, nestled in the dark. I’ve spent my whole life waiting for my turn. I’ve jostled for position, pushed others out the way, fought my way through the crowds to get ahead, but another was always chosen. I remain in my place, rejected, discarded, redundant. Resigned to a life in the shadows.

    When I was young I felt that I could be anything, I was ready to be shaped by the world. My friends were slowly transformed. Some spent their days playing with children, others lived in the kitchen, but I was always meant for something more. I was chosen to serve a loftier purpose, to bring justice to the world. I am ready and willing to do what is necessary.

    I’m snapped from my dreaming by the familiar jolt of combat. I prepare myself. This is it.

    The feeling I’ve been waiting for my whole life arrives quite suddenly. I rise from my slumber, ready to realize my potential. I slot into position. With a creak I am ready to be unleashed. I see my quarry and then I’m free, flying with true purpose. I’m ready to change the world.

    I miss my target and hit the wall with a hollow thunk. Such a waste.

    208 words


    • I read this as the arrow’s POV – after all that dreaming to end up in a wall; never felt sorry for an arrow before.


  65. Life isn’t Fair
    209 words

    Jedidiah crouched down behind the big oak on the small hill behind the school. He had a clear view of the parking lot. Scanning the cars he spotted Troy’s shiny new Camaro. His mouth settled into a grim smile.

    Four years. Fours years of near daily humiliations took place in that parking lot. They ranged from snide remarks to outright assault. No one spoke up for him, or came to his defense. They laughed. The principal ignored his complaints. The day he came home with a scraped face and sprained wrist, his father had come up to the school. The abuse became worse after that. But no more.

    Jedidiah tensed as Troy walked out of the gym door exit, slinging his athletic bag casually over his shoulder, his arm around Jenny, the cute as a button head cheerleader. He quietly drew an arrow from his quiver and brought his bow up. Maybe he would shoot one into the side of the Camaro for good measure. He pulled back his arm, the tension in the bow matching the tension in his body.

    A heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder. Startled Jedidiah looked up, dismayed to see the principal. “And just what do you think you’re up to young man?”


  66. The Order

    The assignment came early, the directions, simple:
    Go. Disappear. Kill.

    I’d completed my last job only a week ago:
    Kill. Carefully. Scatter.

    We’d completed the order without fault, carefully eliminating the pestilence without regret, and like that, we became the pandemic:
    Spread. Wait.

    Tonight’s mission would serve as my own personal “Black Coat Ceremony”:
    Wait. Watch. Learn.

    I waited as my target, like always, came out for her five o’clock smoke just outside the back door:

    I watched from across the lot as she flicked the cigarette off to the side shamelessly, shrugging a bit as the strap of her purse, like usual, began to slip down her left shoulder:

    Patiently I calculated my next move, knowing that in exactly ten minutes, eleven seconds, my target would open the back door a second time, briefcase in her right hand, car keys in her left:
    Go. Disappear.

    A predator on the hunt, I went for it, disappearing behind the vehicles:

    The arrow flew through the air with a whistle, slicing the silence of the night:

    My feet feathers, I raced behind the brush, ducking, knowing this was it:

    I dropped to my knees as the head of my own arrow buried into my chest:

    209 Words


    WC = 193 (03-20-15)
    It’s the pits. Milling trucks avoid undesirable slots pock-marked by winter’s ravage. Potholes devoid of warning signs and filled with water belie the safety of the diesel parking lot. Eighteen wheelers roar and huff to avoid the obvious slicks, yet they still drop a dual set of wheels in the seasonally camouflaged tire traps.

    No favorites do the holes make of Kenworth, International, Volvo, or Freightliner. Loose gravel on asphalt sullies dovetailed parking lines, and tractors haphazardly pull into more convenient hole-free lengths.

    But the pinnacle of laziness prize goes to the driver who parks at the diesel pump, dumps the collected detritus of his cab in the island refuse can, then stays in the rest building for a meal, a shower, and a short snooze; all while his diesel tractor takes up prime space in front of a diesel pump.

    It’s enough to cause a diesel lot rumble among road jockeys, some being inconsiderate and some brave enough to barrel ride their steeds around the unmarked pits on the parking lot. But the goods of America continue to travel all over a lot of roads despite the condition of the rodeo lots.


    • Taking up the space in front of a pump is very bad manners! I really dislike those over here who fill-up and then do their week’s shopping before coming back out and moving their car – usually when you’re in a hurry.


  68. LIBERO (206 words)

    Coach is crying on the school bus as we clamor on, cleats slung around our necks like the high school girls do. She’s watching her boyfriend, who is also our gym teacher Mr. Anders, run toward us from the archery fields, shouting.

    “Please, hurry,” Coach says to the bus driver, a man we refer to in stage whispers as The Gnome. He starts the wide U-turn around the parking lot. Mr. Anders is carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows, the ones we use in gym class. He slows, loads an arrow and aims it at the bus, but it slips and flies backwards. We all laugh a little, except Kristi and Erin, whose parents are divorcing. But Coach looks really scared, which makes us scared too.

    Mr. Anders stops, plants his feet, and shoots a second arrow, which ricochets off a window. The third arrow sinks into the front tire and the bus falls to its shoulder like a bull, immobilized. Mr. Anders saunters toward us, reaching back for another arrow. The Gnome, who raised fourteen children, jams his thermos through the door handles as a barricade. We guide Coach to the center of the bus and circle around her: hands on hips, ablaze.


  69. The Encounter

    Stanley walked south across the blacktop, eye’s on his smartphone. The Level 62 saw Stanley by now, but couldn’t attack until they were within 200 yards. Stanley was Level 58. The 62 hungered for the XP that Stanley was worth.

    300 yards. His character was in a wooded area. A figure in the distance stepped onto the blacktop. He couldn’t discern the player’s features, but the real person was not important. His avatar entered dueling range.

    He started to tap the attack button, but the 62 was faster. Stanley’s avatar pulled out his bow and arrow. The 62 was a melee player. He would run through the barrage of arrows and hit Stanley full force.

    The 62 began running. He got as many arrows in the air as he could before…Crunch! He rebounded quickly, with only 10 HP. One hit left. His opponent was also recovering. Stanley equipped a dagger and thrust at a gap in the 62’s armor.

    The 62 didn’t realize the woods gave Stanley’s attack double damage. Stepping onto the blacktop sealed his fate.

    “Dammit.” Came a female voice. “That was cheap” Before him was petite girl holding a smartphone and glaring.

    “Hi…” He muttered awkwardly. Her fist met his abdomen with surprising strength.

    208 words


    WC = 209

    Night in Osaka.

    A warm bay wind carries a message inland past heavy cranes and empty containers. It sweeps along asphalt roads and around industrial buildings to reach a figure in shadow at the edge of a desolate parking lot. Fluttering fingertips receive the wind’s speed and direction. Mayumi nods. She touches the fabric covering the silver medal on her chest before notching an arrow on her bowstring. Silver will suffice.

    Mayumi waits. The idleness leads to distracting memories of her sister, Kumiko. Girlish giggles. Silly pranks. Laughing eyes. Mayumi focuses her mind. “Avenge her.”

    On schedule, the quarry emerges from a service door into the yellow glow of security lamps. Large and square, wearing an expensive suit and gold rings, he walks toward the one car left on the lot.

    The first arrow ricochets off a metal sign. The quarry freezes then spins to the direction of the noise. He senses the danger but thinks to run a moment too late. Mayumi’s true offering is already plunging at him from the darkness. A sound like cutting through cabbage. A sudden pressure at his throat. Wet fingers. A gushing wound.

    Mayumi sees the quarry stagger and fall. A downed beast. Drawing a blade, she strides forward to finish it.


  71. The Path between Night and Day

    “Dark. It is the first lesson a master teaches, and the last lesson a pupil masters. Dark conceals. It protects the secrets that lie within, yet ever does it live in fear of light. Dark, mixed light becomes shadow, and shadow is friend to neither. It reveals that which dark would hide, and conceals that which light would reveal.”

    “And what of light?” Ng asked as he studied his master’s face. “Does not light extiguish dark?”

    The master smiled and shook his head. “One cannot defeat the other for they are mirrored faces one to the other, there is not light without dark, not day without night.”

    “I still cannot tell the difference.”

    “Light dwells above. Proud in it’s comings and goings while dark dwells in the carverns below, protected from light’s peircing blades. Dark bleeds; dark writhes… dark lingers.

    Ng paused weighing his masters words, but it made no sense, finally he turned his question written in his eyes.

    The master bowed, a resigned expression on his face.

    “Day time parkers pay $10, over night parkers $15.”

    “And the Shadows?”

    “They slip through unseen… for them you can use the caltrops.”

    192 words


  72. Making up for Past Mistakes
    208 words

    The behemoth had no business in the parking lot. Commuters at its maw shrieked and scampered for cover among the cars. Commuters at its flanks phone-filmed.

    A flush stalked up Toro’s neck into his cheeks as he took position on the parking kiosk.

    It was his fault. The pretty gaijin at the izakaya wanted to know the difference between a brontosaurus and apatosaurus. He’d slaved to make the chrono-technology applicable, so he should get to use it, right? He hadn’t meant to perforate the membrane between epochs and let the brontosaurus through.

    Toro aimed for the reptilian slits of its pupils. He’d designed the arrow to seal the perforation. The arrowhead’s indicator light blinked amber. Release!

    The beast lashed its long neck. He breathed thanks to his mother who’d insisted he stick with archery classes when his friends traded traditional pursuits for V-plugs.

    As if it were a dino-shaped blimp pierced by a rocket, it deflated, then twisted out of existence. Toro’s ears popped. It worked!


    The bar reeled around him. Toro gripped his glass and exhaled.

    The pretty foreigner narrowed her eyes. “A brontosaurus? I’m not an idiot, you know.”

    He drained his shochu. “Pardon?”

    “Everyone knows brontosaurus was a duplication mistake for the apatosaurus.”

    Oh crap.


  73. Her heels click-clacked on the concrete floor of the parking lot, growing louder as she grew closer, threatening to drown the din of traffic from the street below.

    His palm rested flat against me. I sighed. “Not yet,” he whispered. “She’s not the one.”

    I longed to ask when. Did he realize how long we spent in the shadowy corners of the lot, waiting? An arrow stuck in his side. I wondered if he would last. If not, then I would be left to…well, I’d not want to ponder it.

    Another set of heels approached. This one sounded different. Click-clack-slide. Click-clack-slide. I hummed in anticipation. His hand gripped me, hard, but I did not care. I was too anxious to feel anything.

    Suddenly he was on his feet. I was in the air, swinging in a wide arc behind the shapeshifter disguised as a tall, leggy blonde. Mortal eyes didn’t see the reptilian tail that hung below the hem of her skirt and trailed behind her on the ground.

    My blade sliced through her neck at an angle and emerged just below her armpit. My handle practically danced with glee in his hand.

    A life for a life. A curse fulfilled. Finally we could go home.


  74. NOTE: Forgot my WP pw. By the time I got in it was 11:59 exactly. I was so excited that it’s taken this long to realize I forgot a few things. I understand if that disqualifies me. :/

    A Curse Fulfilled
    206 words (according to MS Word!)


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