Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 18

Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

Golden ticket. CC2.0 image by Joseph Francis.

WELCOME TO FLASH! FRIDAY! and yes, you guessed right: I have in my very own talons TWO highly coveted Golden Tickets for inclusion in the upcoming #FlashDogs anthology. (Read all about the cunning Flash Dogs & their anthologies here.) You’ve got two chances to win one: 

  • TODAY: If you want a shot at a ticket via the regular Flash! Friday contest, (1) please mark your story today with a “Golden Ticket” notation in your byline. (2) EXTRA CHALLENGE REQUIRED: You must include the word “ticket” somewhere in your story. –The winner will be selected by the Flash! Friday team and announced Monday alongside the FF winners.
  • TUESDAY: Introducing our inaugural Flash Dash contest. On Tuesday, April 14, a prompt will post at exactly 7:00am Washington DC time (morning coffee for us; lunchtime for you UK folks; evening tea for y’all Down Under), and you’ll have THIRTY MINUTES ONLY in which to write and post a story. No joke: 30 minutes. Even if you’ve already got a Golden Ticket, you are invited to play; we are giving away a Golden Ticket AND a super fancy Flash! Friday color changing coffee mug. MIDAS PARTY!!!

WALL OF FLAME: A reminder the Wall of Flame proudly displays the current March badge holders. Prize drawing at year’s end among those with the most monthly badges, so don’t forget to track your participation at FF! Details and the names of our fabulous Ring of Fire badge holders here.

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DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Two: Captains Mark King & Tamara Shoemaker. No, of course they’re up to no good, but you already knew that, right?? Click on their names to learn more about what they expect to see in a winning entry. And a SPECIAL NOTE: starting next week, we are opening up applications for the next teams of dragon captains. (Can you believe it?! Year Three is going by fast.)    

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

Now let’s 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.

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: character. The below character type must be your story’s central focus): REMINDER: If you also wish your story to be eligible for the Golden Ticket contest, remember to add a “Golden Ticket” note at the top or bottom of your story AND include the word “ticket” somewhere in the story itself.

 

 Spy

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

 

The Beggar. CC2.0 photo by Foto_Michel.

The Beggar. CC2.0 photo by Foto_Michel.

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474 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 18

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 194
    (Judge’s entry, just for fun. Posted before I could see anyone else’s).

    The Spy

    My limpid eyes crust over, a hundred thousand miles of debris fog my milky gaze.
    I’ve traveled far to see him as he huddles over his costly coin,
    Selling his dignity to the highest bidder.
    The people who pass avoid him, turn to the opposite side of the street,
    Whisper behind their fingers about the stranger on the curb.
    A few show kindness, regard for the less fortunate.
    They drop their earnings in his cup, satisfied that they’ve helped a soul in need.
    The bills will buy him a ticket to dinner, they think, or perhaps a bed to sleep on.
    He’ll smile his thanks and shift his gaze,
    His lashes hiding secrets.

    See, I know.
    Tonight as every night, he’ll approach me,
    Brush his hand over my smooth body,
    Settle himself against me.
    He’ll take me places we’ve never been,
    Bear me over bridges of wonder and highways of delight.

    At last, he pulls me aside, leaves me cold, shuts the door in my face as he enters his mansion,
    Revels in his excess-lined estate, sleeps in the splendor of kings.
    My headlights dim and blink to gray,
    and I can no longer spy.

  2. Counter Intelligence

    I’m trained in the art of counter intelligence. This doesn’t mean I am trained to spy on other spies. It means I am trained to understand idiots. You see, most of the work a spy does is finding the weak link in the system. It could be the intellectually bankrupt janitor who has seen too much, or the chatty mother in law of the nuclear scientist. In every system, there is a moron waiting to be exploited. That’s where I come in.

    Today’s assignment is to infiltrate the embassy of a foreign country that’s been waving their flag a little too aggressively in our direction. The movies would have you believe I’ll be rappelling down from the ceiling, dodging laser tripwires. Instead I’m sat right outside, watching all the comings and goings, looking for my precious fool. I have a magic cup that makes me invisible, I simply hold it out at arms length and suddenly no-one sees me.

    I spot my target almost immediately. He’s picking his nose with his thumb. He’s my ticket inside. As he passes I leap up, bumping into him. The bug slips casually onto his collar. Now I can see inside, and I don’t even have to leave my corner. Pure fool’s gold.

    210 words
    @todayschapter

  3. Please (210 words)
    @brett_milam

    My car had become my catacomb in the city.

    Sitting in the driver’s seat, talk radio babbling and my seat belt pinching my stomach fat, I could see the beggar on the corner. I spied him a few blocks away and knew that I’d catch the red light, causing my car to be right next to his begging.

    I averted my eyes.

    He stood with baggy clothes, a thick mane of grey hair, and a sign with something about needing food, praising God or something or another. I was looking through my peripheral, after all.

    As the light still rested on red, I saw him shuffle his feet. My stomach tightened against the seat belt, was he going to come to the window? Fuck, act distracted. There’s something intensely fascinating about the radio nob; oh, there’s that coffee spill on the carpet fibers of the car floor demanding attention; there, over on the right side of the road, let me read this billboard.

    I’m sure he could see right through me. Maybe it was like one of those clickbait sites that talk about how Jesus could be a homeless person and you wouldn’t know it. Maybe he was Jesus, judging the fuck out of me.

    Then the light turned green.

  4. @colin_d_smith
    200 words (“Golden Ticket”)
    “Surveillance”

    It was like a mission from God.

    I wanted this like a hungry dog with a juicy T-bone. But the job required patience. Diligence. I didn’t want to spook the target and lose him forever.

    At first I watched from windows. The gait of his walk, the way he gestured, the way he would stop and gaze at the sky for no reason, like he was trying to remember something.

    Then I followed him–at a safe distance, of course—seeing where he went, who he knew. Schools, bus stops, parking lots. He liked places with people, children. Sitting on a bench, or leaning against a wall, watching, smiling, waving. Always that wistful gaze, like he’s caught up in his own fantasy, his mind locked in the past.

    But I needed to get closer, to hear his voice, to know for sure. I took to disguise. I was a cop, a bum, a priest—I even bought his bus ticket just to hear him say “thank you.” He didn’t.

    That clinched it.

    Now I’m sitting behind some trash cans, waiting for the moment. He seems oblivious to me, holding his coffee, warming his hands, watching the world.

    I approach.

    “Dad?”

  5. “FInal Exam”
    Josh Bertetta
    @JBertetta
    205 Words

    The trouble with spies is that they hide in plain sight. Read the three choices below, then answer the following question.

    A) Two men in a black SUV are parked outside a bank. They play an old childhood game. In turn, one gives a description of an object he sees. For example, he says, “Something blue with stripes.” The other must keep guessing. When he names the object, it is his turn. They keep playing like so until the reason they are waiting (a distinguished individual in a suit, a set of handcuffs securing the briefcase in his possession) comes into view. Then they move, quiet and unassuming.

    B) A young man covers his wispy hair with his hood. Though he has a bag of crispy crackers in his lap, he continues to beg for food with a raspy voice. When people pass him with snide remark or look of disgust, he glares after them, his eyes waspy and ready to sting.

    C) A mathematician named Charles Pye despises cake, but loves his pie. His favorite fish is pike. He wears piebald coats, smokes pipes. His favorite number’s pi.

    Question: Which of the three is the spy? Explain your reasoning in the space provided below.

    • Very clever. I choose C – because of the repeated use of the encrypted letter sequence s – p – i (the first one actually being s – p – y). I counted seven such references total.

      (Oops. I posted this under the next entry ’cause I’m new to, and still getting used to, this site.)

      • Thanks for playing Dylyce. As per your answer, no response. (Hopefully some more will play as well.)

      • I choose C as well, also seven references. Very clever story. Love the interactive element (I had started to pick up on that before reading Dylyce’s comment and was relieved it wasn’t just me seeing things!

      • I like the way you think here and yes, C a good choice for the reasons you provide. I would have answered all of the above, though there are some people who say the reader is the spy, which is equally as good a guess.

    • Love this all of this but especially the killer line “his eyes waspy and ready to sting”!

      My guess is C only because you’ve slipped in so many subtle references to scrumptious pie. 😉

      • Perhaps all of the above–The two in A are playing “I spy” and in B “spy” makes up several words, but C, for the subtly is definitely is as good a reason as any for answering C 🙂

    • OK, you’ve hooked me. (C) has S-P-Y as part of his name; (B) has four attributes containing S-P-Y. Only (A) has no hidden letters, just two guys (presumably Robert Culp and Bill Cosby) playing a version of I-SPY.

      So, I choose (A) even though I don’t see how TWO men can be the “spy”.

      Clever stuff, as ever, Josh.

    • Beyond clever, I love all the hidden “spy” and “spies”!
      I love the interactive element and I love getting yet another insight into the marvelous way you writer-brain works.
      I think it’s A, the distinguished individual in the suit.

    • I vote secret option D: The narrator. The narrator has successfully described three separate people, with rather great detail, and with which only someone who was paying close attention would notice.

  6. Dream Job
    210 words

    Getting a “license to kill” was all she had ever wanted. Five years as an analyst. Another five handling low-level assignments in intelligence backwaters. On the anniversary of her tenth year with the organization, her handler called her in.

    “I have your next assignment,” said the old man with the odd scar on the back of his hand.

    She‘d sighed. “What is it this time? Babysitting a diplomat? Light filing and rolling calls? Making coffee?”

    He raised one eyebrow in rebuke at her attitude. “Wetwork, unless you’d prefer making coffee.”

    She practically jumped to attention while still in her chair. “No, sir. Sorry, sir. When and where?”

    “Back home. Your ticket and itinerary are in there.” He nodded at an envelope on his desk.

    “The target?”

    “Your spotter will lead you to him, a street beggar with too much information. No one is taking him seriously, yet, but they might. We’d prefer to avoid that.”

    “Understood, sir. It won’t be a problem.”

    Nine days later, she was in a hotel room with an XM2010 sighting her target. Just before she fired, she recognized him. She hesitated for one second, perhaps two, then pulled the trigger.

    Three hundred yards away, her brother dropped his begging cup and slumped to the cobblestones.

  7. Very clever. I choose C – because of the repeated use of the encrypted letter sequence s – p – i (the first one actually being s -p – y). I counted seven such references total.

  8. The Manliest of Man’s Manly Man
    Josh Bertetta
    @JBertetta
    210 Words

    He’d reached the age when every man reflects on his life.

    He’d played with toys that never hit the market and drove only the best of cars. He’d killed more than he could count and saved the lives of millions more. The best clothes, a world traveler. Flew his own plane and fixed everyone’s problems. He kicked a lot of ass, and tapped just as much, if not more. He was a man’s man. The kind of man everyone wants to be.

    He’d reached the age when men played with their grandchildren.

    He leaned back in his easy chair. Those women, they stopped returning his calls. A long, long time ago. And he didn’t have any. Women—let alone anyone—to call, that is, or grandchildren for that matter. Like most days he wore a dingy cotton robe and nothing else and used his finger to stir his ubiquitous drink. He sighed, and picked at the peeling leather from his easy chair’s armrests, trying to convince himself he was still a man’s man, the kind of man everyone wants to be.

    But he wasn’t. Wasn’t much of a man after all. Never was.

    He lived alone and forgotten like a beggar on the street.

    His name was Bond, James Bond.

  9. Marooned
    A.J. Walker

    The morning was basking in the flushes of spring when the lower sun gifted the city the shadows, accentuating the architect’s visions. In one such shadow Colin ‘Hide in Plain Sight’ Patterson sat; watching.

    Passers-by gave him their usual daily reactions. Most looked to the suddenly interesting pavement. A few nodded politely as if that nod would help clothe and feed a beggar. Some though stopped and talked, dropping him some coins. Carly from the Greggs around the corner brought him out his ‘usual’ – a cup of tea with six sugars, a potato and meat pasty (with a dollop of brown sauce) and, as it was Friday, she gave him half her Kit-Kat.

    “Anything interesting today, Col?”

    Colin didn’t look up. “Usual. There’s always shit going down.”

    “Bloke in Nero’s is passing off packages. Drug dealer, no mistake.” Colin said flatly. “Drinks Frappachinos. No class.”

    Colin continued. “Girl from Poundland keeps coming out for a fag and passing stuff to her boyfriend.”

    “Nicking from Poundland!”

    Colin took a sip of the tea and winced; he hated sugar, but it was part of his cover.

    “That guy in the maroon Rover is having his assignations again.”

    Carly turned around. Behind the bins for McDonald’s she saw her husband’s car.

    (210 words)
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

  10. Alas Smith and Jones
    A.J. Walker

    Stephen Jones was as stiff as a stiff thing which had been subjected to extra stiffening. He had new respect for the people who sat there begging hour after hour and then got up with fully functioning limbs. Still, it was this week’s job.

    His information gathering on Mr Smith in the coffee shop opposite was complete. He reported to Control that Smith had spent an impressive 40 hours in the cafe drinking just eight coffees over the five days, whilst regularly passing something over to a lady – who thought they were being surreptitious; probably drugs but his colleagues would investigate that.

    On Friday afternoon it went a bit ‘en forma de pera’ when Stephen was picked up by the police on some trumped up charge and thrown in the cells for the weekend.

    The court case became an infamous farce when it turned out that Mr Smith had been watching Mr Jones all week. He’d recorded that Jones had drunk two coffees, sixteen cans of Special Brew and had twelve slices of pizza; whilst appearing to talk to himself.

    At the end of the following week the various government agencies held a meeting with lots of coffee and biscuits (but no Special Brew) and agreed to start information sharing.

    (210 words)
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

  11. Checking In

    I settle, cross-legged, on the pavement, my sleeping bag furled beneath me. I hold out my empty cup, trying to remember coffee. I run my dry tongue over my film-coated teeth.

    But, I remember: I chose this. There’s no going back.

    They clip-clop past me in their heels and polished brogues, with their suits and their pretence. I feel like sticking my leg out and tripping someone, just to see. Just to see if they’d see me, then.

    But I’ve worked hard to be invisible.

    She stops unexpectedly. Smiling. Tall. Expensively slim. She smells good. I don’t know her, yet I know. How has she found me?

    ‘It’s time, Agent,’ she says, crouching.

    ‘Pardon, love?’

    Her smile tightens. ‘Enough. You’ve been recalled to active duty. Report to Control by oh-eight-hundred, tomorrow.’

    I give her the full benefit of my teeth. ‘Dunno what you’re on about, darlin’.’

    She says nothing. Her gaze skewers me.

    ‘But I left,’ I tell her, my false grin dying.

    ‘Nobody ever leaves the Service,’ she replies, not unsympathetically. Then, she wrinkles her nose. ‘And do something about that smell, won’t you? Decorum.’

    As she walks away, I gaze into my still-empty cup, and sigh. I suppose a small advance would have been too much to ask?

    @SJOHart
    210 words
    http://sjohart.wordpress.com

  12. Casus Belli

    “Come on, move your arse.”
    I don’t look up. The tone of voice and shiny boots are enough.
    An officious shadow, taller than the man himself, ripples across the cobbles.
    “Move or be arrested. It’s invitation only today – unless the President sent you one.” He chuckles.
    No ticket, But I’m here for a reason. In this perfect vantage point, where his car will stop, a spot I’ve occupied ever since we discovered his plans.
    This meeting’s about justification. Intolerable demands, bellicose provocations will humiliate the guests until they storm out. The President will be triumphant – unless someone can stop him.
    I hear the approaching roar of the motorcycle outriders.
    I peer around the policeman’s legs, and the sun glistens off an opening window opposite me.
    Here we go.
    I kick the policeman’s knee.
    It snaps back and he crashes to the ground.
    I grab at his belt, snatching his radio, rolling to my feet.
    “Zulu, Zulu! Upper left, fourth floor!”
    The crack of my team’s gunfire echoes around the square.
    A body falls from the window.
    The cavalcade halts and our smiling, waving leader sweeps into his meeting.
    I pour my begging cup’s coins onto the writhing body at my feet.
    “Come on, move your arse”. I smile.

    210 words
    (Golden Ticket)
    @nickjohns999

  13. The Invisible Man (Golden Ticket)
    210 words
    @DHartleyWriter

    Magpie fled and pigeons scattered. He marched west, slipped five into a tramp’s cup, then darted south. I kept hard on his tail; a sparrow, a starling, a swift – something small and darting: a wren, a finch.

    Our feet as fleet as wings, we sweep the streets to the dead drop. The city splays itself: rough sleepers, dazed drunks, psyched stares. It needs a deep clean, right into the guts of its pores. I could take the ticket for myself. Cut off, escape, fly free. I’m good at being invisible.

    Concentrate. Hawk. Eagle. Owl. Eyes on it all; miss nothing. Magpie switches through a subway, doubles back north, then east for an hour. We land in Governor Park. I settle in a tree: innocuous woodpigeon, no harm to no-one. He sits on a bench.

    He has a shoelace to tie, of course. But a ruffle of feathers, a quick preen and there; the drop is made. He waits, casual, then swoops away.

    Cocky robin, I strut over, peck off the package and find shade to sing it home. Feels small for a ticket. I tear it open, remove the note. “The Invisible Man”, it says.

    I think back. Who?

    Then I run, as fast as my wings will carry me.

  14. @bex_spence
    193 words

    How to become a spy

    This disguise was ridiculous, he felt like one of the incompetent villains in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Stepping away from the wall, Jimmy half tiptoed half fell as he ran across the cobbles. Constricted by his costume, a heavy white box, foolish in the open.

    He was sure that his superiors were watching from somewhere, comfortable in their luxurious cars. They’d run the gauntlet, done the time. Now it was his initiation. He’d stood out all night, blending into the wall, living in shadows. How do spies cope, with the waiting, the boredom, what about when nature calls? All these thoughts had passed through his mind.

    The town clock had chimed six and it was his turn to act. Now he stood before the figure. Stared at the hooded character in front of him, so lifelike, yet still. The perfect façade for a secret entrance. Who would look twice at a homeless man. Staring into the coffee cup, empty, redundant, Jimmy pulled the arm. Ridiculous.

    The floor vibrated, bricks crunched and groaned. Jimmy slipped in and the wall closed behind. A concrete thud and all light vanished. Darkness stretched before him. Now what?

  15. Perfect Pitch

    @geofflepard. Golden ticket. 208 words.

    ‘No one sees the homeless, do they? They’re perfectly shaped for our needs: hunched, hooded – like they’ve barricaded themselves against the world. We did an analysis and of the fifty-seven homeless beggars we studied in the Business District, thirty-nine were ignored, fifteen were spoken to and their responses ignored, one spoke to a policeman and one….’
    Greg stroked his bland chin. He prided himself on his cultivated anonymity. ‘You sorted the cops?’
    Dara kept her eyes on the screen, graphic images of destruction reflecting in her Ray-bans. ‘Of course. We looked at a period of fifteen weeks, all weathers. The results were remarkably consistent.’
    ‘So what in the name of Saint J Edgar went wrong?’ Greg didn’t raise his voice but Dara swayed like she was dodging a punch.
    ‘The artificial beggar was in place and recording. We had everything covered and…’
    Greg waved at the pictures. ‘Clearly not everything.’
    ‘Michael O’Riordan. 57. Several tickets in his time – larceny, vagrancy, aggressive begging.’
    ‘Ok and what had this guy got against our all-eyes robot? I mean he ripped the sucker’s head off. Is it a wonder the terrorists changed location?’
    ‘He said it was his pitch. Everyone knew he begged there on Thursdays.’
    ‘Except you.’

  16. Undercover Ops
    @laurenegreene
    Golden Ticket
    210 words

    A good spy must trust his intuition.

    Coffee cup is pouring over with change today. I jiggle it just to hear the clink of coins against each other. I smile at the worker bees. The great masticators missing instead of secure in my mandible.

    I catch the eye of the next passerby and before he can step off the curb into the safety of the street, I yank him toward me by his coat sleeve. A ticket floats to the ground—the rays of sunlight gleam off its shiny surface.

    “Let go of me,” the man says, trying to reach for his fallen ticket and escape my grasp.

    “I know who you are, but do you know who I am?”

    The man pulls away and brushes off his coat as if I have contaminated him. George runs out from the Italian market behind me.

    “I’m sorry. He means no harm. Old fart thinks he’s an undercover operative or something.”

    “Well is he?” the man asked.

    “I’m Agent Z! He’s the one, George. Wrestle him to the ground.”

    George shakes his head, hands the man his fallen ticket, and they both walk away. There’s always tomorrow. I shake coffee cup, and the next man drops a dollar in. My lucky day.

  17. @NJCrosskey
    Golden Ticket
    210 words

    Heaven’s Gate

    I’m never drinking with Seraphim again. Bastards. Getting into a theological debate was a bad idea. Taking the bet was worse.

    It’s not that I don’t support the Watcher’s strike. But, closing the gate, forever? My species can’t have got that bad.

    Raziel just laughed. “Alright,” he said. “You try. I’ll grant one last place. Just one. And I’ll bet you can’t even fill that.”

    So here I am. Scouring humanity. And I’ve probably lost my own slot, what with the coat stealing. But, those gilt-winged gits dropped me here buck naked. I’ll plead entrapment, Pete’s a good guy, he’ll understand.

    And I’m losing. Raziel was right, things have changed. The city is a cold sea of scowls and selfish aspirations, drowning kindness in its tide. The crowd may move as one, but they live apart.

    A man slumps beside me on the bench, cloaked in dirt and body odour.

    “You look like shit,” he says. “When’d you last eat?”

    I shrug. I don’t think “fifty years ago” would go down well.

    “Ain’t much, but here…” He offers me a half-eaten sandwich. “Reckon you need this more than me.”

    I smile, and press Raziel’s crumpled ticket into his hand.

    “Buddy,” I say, “you just became the richest guy on Earth.”

  18. Portrait of a Spy
    @mishmhem
    209 words
    #FlashDogs

    I watch as you slip out of bed, trying not to wake me. I want to scream at you as you coast your car out of the driveway, but instead, I slip out of bed to follow you. As I get into my own car, I wonder if you ever really loved me.

    I catch up with you when you stop to buy flowers from a street vendor and find myself seething. In the seven years we’ve been together, you have never bought me flowers.

    I follow you to the park, our park and stubbornly push the tears from my eyes. This is the park where you proposed to me. I feel my heart break with every step you take towards your secret rendezvous, I follow you, from the parking lot, to the bridge, to the island gazebo and feel the ground give way beneath me as you bend down to kiss the dark clad woman that is sitting there waiting for you.

    Puzzled, I try to get a better view as she carefully positions you in the sun and then sits back down.
    You stand there, flowers in hand, and it is then I see the sign, and feel even more the fool, ‘Today Only – Portraits by Appointment.’

  19. The Assignment
    @FictionAsLife
    199 words. Golden Ticket

    A stranger dropped a coin into my cup. I thanked him profusely as curses rang in my head. How much longer would I have to sit on this cobblestoned earth?

    I sat. I breathed. I waited. I watched.

    Three police officers walked by, talking about lunch. They ignored me as my stomach rumbled.

    I sat. I breathed. I waited. I watched.

    The police commissioner walked by, alone. He covertly dropped a piece of paper into my cup. I watched as he walked away, his black coat blowing in the wind. I had not expected my assignment to come from a high officer. Was this my ticket to a higher profile position?

    I sat. I breathed. I waited. I watched.

    Slowly, the plaza cleared. It was nearly empty by the time the bell tolled one, save for bread crumbs and pigeons. I looked in my cup. Other than the paper, there were a few coins.

    I picked up my pillow and walked back to my room, ready for my next assignment. This paper would tell me where to go, how to get there, what to find. “I’m ready,” I whispered.

    I opened the paper.

    “Get a job, you lazy bum.”

  20. Spying Between Worlds

    Things were going wrong on Telarunda. As mining colonies went, it was the dregs of the galaxy. Still, one industrial accident too many contained the foul stench of conspiracy.

    How to uncover it when their spies were everywhere? Our people had to get to the colony undetected. Intra-world transport must be done in secret. No one could know when we left. The intellectual property rights guys came up with the solution. Encrypt golden tickets with embedded transporter beam code and hand them out through a network of street beggars.

    Kinney was the first to go mad. Reginald followed soon after. We’d been compromised. I found the leak and hurried to get to Telarunda.

    The sign read, “Drop in a coin to win a golden ticket.”

    The mind-assassination began when he put his specially designated disc into the old beggar’s cup. And realized, too late, he wasn’t one of theirs.

    As soon as he touched the ticket, nano-bot transmitters scrambled into his brain attacking neurons, stripping away the fabric of his thoughts. His mind shredded into indistinct particles, each without hope. First they took his past, then his future. The bleak landscape that remained held all the information they needed.

    His silent scream echoed through the wasteland of his mind. “Nooooooooooooooooooo!”

    (210 words)
    Golden Ticket

  21. Plain Sight

    Hidden in plain sight, way far and gone from the sight of the planes I grew up on.

    Cold seeps up from the concrete, I ache in old, broken places, where the knitting of bone keeps me together.

    Can you see me?

    I sit on the sidewalk.

    Eyes divert over me like jet planes soaring up and away, were never there. Except, they were, and that primal instinct in even the most civilised who walk this street, remembers.

    This street.

    There is a rhythm to it, if you are prepared to sit and wait for it to come clear, through all the interference.

    The planes.

    A hipster bows, setting her offering of chai tea carefully before me, backs away, never meeting my eyes. God’s speed my girl. Nonplussed at her choice of beverage, I bless her aversion, her ticket to live.

    There are patterns within patterns, minutes, hours, days. I can see them clearly. I watch. I wait. I am receiving.

    Dogs’ shit and coffee, exhaust fumes and perfume, sun on city dust. I can smell myself, the street, I am immersed in it.

    This street.

    My hooded head never nods in real sleep. I am receiving. Hidden in plain sight.

    I used to fly.

    I will again.

    208 words
    F. E. Clark @feclarkart
    #Flashdog

  22. Street Level
    (205 words)

    I spy with my little eye the kid with the purple-stained cheek. A badge of honour bestowed on him since his mom started seducing the night. Her crimson lips whisper from hidden corners the price of dark secrets and lies.
    So the kid becomes her little street soldier beating back horrible names with his armory of sticks and stones.

    I spy with my little eye the wife whose bed is cold while her husband kisses crimson lips. For now, she ignores the rose blossoms of lipstick on his neck and the sweet smell of deceit on his shirt.

    I spy a little soldier looking lost early one morning, panic filling his hollow, sleepless eyes. He knows what he’s going to find before he even starts searching.

    I spy a little girl whose mom makes pancakes while family life is laundered.
    The blood spatter on clothes, a distorted echo of the passion her husband once sought. Stains removed, ironed out, folded away into drawers. A disinfectant smell clears the air. Domesticity restored.

    It is then I am seen.

    The police bundle me into the back of their car; they don’t listen when I say:
    I spied with my little eye, the fallout of criss-crossed lives.

    @elaine173marie

  23. Jobsworth

    209 words

    @el_Stevie
    #Flashdogs

    Forget ‘eye in the sky’, what about ‘brick in the wall’?

    They’d cracked up when Dave came up with that one. But he knew. He hadn’t prowled the streets on the council’s behalf for nothing all these years without discovering the spot where all the troubles happened. He’d prove he was more efficient than some Peeping Tom drone operator. He would catch more miscreants in his disguise than they did with their remote control doodlebug; there were no flies on him.

    Well, scratch that – actually he couldn’t, he had to remain perfectly still – some drunk had thrown up over him and now there was a steady buzzing over the vomit that pooled around his feet. A dog wandered over, cocked his leg and added his own special ingredient to the mix.

    Yet Dave remained determined. He had merged so seamlessly with the wall, no one had noticed him, not even the beggar opposite. It couldn’t be much longer, surely?

    Some workmen pulled up by Dave. They tipped out fresh cement, new bricks. Suddenly he remembered he’d reported the wall’s deteriorating condition … a long time ago.

    “Better late than never,” said one workman.

    “Will keep old Jobsworth quiet at any rate,” said another.

    And Dave was literally rendered speechless.

  24. Bad Luck?

    “Eagle Eyes, I’ve lost my target, please assist,” I say quickly into the button of a microphone on my sleeve.
    I walk quickly, scanning the square but I can’t relocate the blue coat in the sea of people.
    “Z, target is 700 feet ahead now, bending to retrieve paper from box, corner of James and 7th,” comes the even voice in my ear.
    I walk a little faster, even harder now that I’m within the crowd. A woman walks past with overwhelming floral perfume.
    “Z, be advised, target is…”
    I sneeze.
    My ear piece falls out of my left ear.
    I pivot and look for it.
    It has fallen into the charity cup of limp edged man in dark sunglasses.
    I assure myself that I can deftly reach into the cup, retrieve my piece and get back to work.
    As soon as my fingers are inside the cup I hear a loud shrill voice.
    “He’s stealing from a blind man!”
    Faces snap over at me, looks of disgust.
    “No, no, just retrieving something,” I say quickly, panicking about my target and this attention.
    Too many people looking, it feels like my stealth has been ripped away so I turn and run back from where I came.
    The blind man smiles.

    210 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  25. Unnoticed
    210 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    You see better without eyes. Who knew?

    My hood- the only roof over my head- hides my face, completely, in shadow. Like a spy, I choose to watch. Unnoticed.

    I can see guilt, of course, I always could. Ten pence coins and specks of pity dropped hastily into my cup.

    But now I even see compassion in some of those that hurry past me. No need to judge them all by the speed of their footsteps. Some have good intentions and generous direct debits stored privately, backstage, in their lives.

    And, some do not.

    And I can see, straightaway, the man who’s going to discover me. He wears an ordinary grey suit, like so many passers-by. But there is something different in his gaze. I see it even before he stops, and stares.

    He reaches towards me and lifts my hood, and as my frozen body falls sideways and he gasps at my glassy stare, I know that it’s time, now, to go.

    I see every empty cup that’s on this street. And every street that’s just like this one in the city. And every city just like this one in the country, and every country, just like this one, in the world…

    You see better without eyes. Who knew?

  26. “Worth Any Price” (golden ticket entry)
    by Sydney Scrogham @sydney_writer
    210 words

    I lost her.

    I cross my legs and shake my coin can. Today, I’m a palace spy in disguise. The city gates are locked so she won’t get far. People in torn, brown clothes shuffle by me, but no one sees my face.

    “Come grab your golden ticket to happiness!” the auction announcer calls from the front of the raised wooden platform. He spreads his arms wide to indicate the row of girls displayed behind him. Fierce rage boils inside of me to the point I think I’m going to be sick. In spite of what I feel, I get up slowly, grab my hip like I’m in pain, and hobble. I can’t take my eyes off of the girl with a muddy face. Bidding begins. I raise my can.

    The announcer bends down. “You want a girl, old man?”

    I fling off my hood. “I want my daughter.”

    The announcer’s jaw drops and he staggers back. No one can mistake the face of the King. I leap onto the stage, and chaos erupts. But my world is still because there’s only Adie standing in front of me. Her lip puckers and I gather her into my arms and smooth her hair.

    “Daddy,” she sobs.

    I won’t lose her again.

  27. (195)
    Golden Ticket
    @Viking_Ma

    Old Dog, New Trick

    That’s the ticket, Arthur! The successful spy must remain hidden in full view. Now, I have here your instructions, should you choose to accept them- ha! That was the old way, yes indeed.
    Right-o. You must make contact with a Mrs Shoemaker. She will be wearing a red wig, so you should spot her easily. She will lead you to the Leather Storeroom, where your next contact will…
    Hey man! You can’t write these details down! This is all top secret! Think of your training.
    Now, where was I? Ah, yes. The second contact will make himself known, and give you a package. It is that which you must carry to Bolivia. Your tickets and passport are in the usual lockbox at the airport.
    It goes without saying that this mission is of crucial import to England: Why, I spent many years of my life chasing around doing similar.
    Must say old chap, your costume is very clever, the detail…even smells authentic…
    Hang on? Are you Arthur?
    Wait! No! Please… They told me to pass the mission to the beggar on the cobblestones…I… I’m dying! Call someone, man…don’t just stand…. I’ve made a huge mis….

  28. Emily Clayton
    @emilyiswriting
    ‘Golden Ticket’
    210 words

    Breckenridge, or the Lifelong Search for Justice

    “Hide your face, boy. No one wants to see that ugly mug.” That’s what Mama always said to me. It stung, of course. Who wants to be insulted by darling Mama?

    Ah, but she was right. This mottled, purple, gelatinous mess, with one eye and a vein-speckled nose sliced at the tip; it was truly hideous. Guess that’s what happens when you get close to a deranged chain-smoking stepfather wielding a scalpel and a tin of gasoline.

    I went underground as soon as I escaped that house. Took to wearing a hooded cape to hide my shame. I wanted to track down all the vile scum, to teach them a few lessons of my own. I’ll never forget the day Agent Collins came into that seedy, dank pub. He took one look at me and knew I’d bring in the baddies.

    Now I sit here, bundled up outside B & L’s Convenience, waiting for justice. Jangling my lipstick-stained cup, filched from the rancid streetwalker with the ripped leather skirt, I watched him approach. He shuffled like a man on death’s door. As he passed, I reached up, slapped cuffs on his wrist, and gave him a punch for good measure. His ticket for what he did to me and Mama.

  29. Agent of Change

    “Spare some change, guv’nor?”
    He was always polite, always overlooked. Most don’t deign to notice him as they walk by, but I’m not like you. I care, care deeply. That’s why I do what I do. It’s a thankless task, working deep in the bowels of Whitehall as a faceless policy maker. But my job is far more than that. I’m not just some peon in an office like my colleagues, oh no. I’m working for real change.

    I drop a crumpled note into his cup. A grunt of thanks is all I get, but that’s OK. It’s not just the thought that counts, but the SD card full of files from every computer in the office network. It runs the gamut: sensitive information that’s a political landmine, some tawdry pictures that will be perfect for blackmail, email conversations that will cause resignations when they’re leaked.

    We’ve been at this for some time, and it’s going to be big. Humanity’s ticket to salvation. You the populace will be goaded to a frenzy and will rise up and tear it all down. After the dust settles, we’ll revert to hunter gatherers, or an agrarian society if we’re lucky. That is if you can rouse yourselves out of your stupor.

    @davejamesashton
    208 words
    Golden Ticket

  30. Eyes of the World
    (210 words)
    You might think I’m selling out humankind. You might be right.
    But, do you know, I have bruises the size of your wallet all over my back from sleeping on concrete?
    We were never going to defeat them anyway. They have technology far more advanced than ours.

    It’s not like in the stories. Alien invaders were never going to hover over the Empire State Building or The Sydney Opera House while we nuked the hell out of them.
    They were always going to take us quietly. I am just one of the many they selected to help them along. You’ll see us all over the city, the country, the world. Correction: you would, if you looked.
    I guess that’s why they chose us. We’re outsiders. We’re disconnected. Clever, see?

    What do we do for them? We are their army of eyes, ears, touch. We are their disguise. I give them a form in return for their warmth.
    I don’t know if they want our water. I am not sure if they lay eggs in our brains, but the bitter cold makes it so that I can’t think that far ahead.

    All I know is this, these strangers have found us a place in our own world.

    • Could this be my entry, please? I noticed the paragraphing of the other one hadn’t come out as I wanted it. Sorry to be messy!

      Eyes of the World
      (210 words)
      You might think I’m selling out humankind. You might be right.
      But, do you know, I have bruises the size of your wallet all over my back from sleeping on concrete?
      We were never going to defeat them anyway. They have technology far more advanced than ours.

      It’s not like in the stories. Alien invaders were never going to hover over the Empire State Building or The Sydney Opera House while we nuked the hell out of them.
      They were always going to take us quietly. I am just one of the many they selected to help them along. You’ll see us all over the city, the country, the world. Correction: you would, if you looked.
      I guess that’s why they chose us. We’re outsiders. We’re disconnected. Clever, see?

      What do we do for them? We are their army of eyes, ears, touch. We are their disguise. We give them a form in return for their warmth.

      I don’t know if they want our water. I am not sure if they lay eggs in our brains, but the bitter cold makes it so that I can’t think that far ahead.

      All I know is this, these strangers have found us a place in our own world.

    • “We are their disguise.” Love it! I like how you built up the mixture of isolation and sci-fi tension.

  31. Golden Ticket
    210 words
    Erin McCabe
    @disturbiakiss

    Exposure

    I’ve been sat here faking addlement and feigning defeat for so long now that my dirty bent begging cup seems to have become an extension of me, moulded to my hand as if I myself am the empty receptacle. Twenty pence, a paper clip and a used bus ticket; it’s hardly a Prince’s ransom, Christ, it’s not even enough to catch the bus.

    On Monday I was told the detective would arrive here to meet his contact during daylight hours, it’s now Friday and still nothing. I was told to wear a disguise, but at such blunt notice this stained hoodie was all I could muster. In truth it was all I really needed; put on old clothes, ask people for money and you’ll be astounded how quickly you find yourself fade. Apathy it seems has no colour; it renders you transparent.

    My legs are stiffening again, they’re heaped under me as a rudimentary stool in an attempt to hide my camera, but the ache is becoming too much to bear. I’m starving and exhausted, raw and wild eyed, a distortion of extremes; street life doesn’t suit me.

    Smart shoes stop and fling two pounds into my arm cup.

    No job is worth being this homeless, I’ll catch the bus.

  32. Fly On The Wall
    @hollygeely
    201 words

    At one time I didn’t care about the affairs of humans. I was content with my limited existence; eat, sleep, fly. Like other flies I was unaware of my mortality, aside from a survival instinct.

    Life was simple and I had no master.

    Now I must do the Wizard’s bidding. I am his eyes and ears on the walls of his choosing.

    The Wizard extracts the conversations from the memory I should not have. I recognize that I don’t have a large enough brain for memory. How do I know that? The Wizard has made me so much more than what I should be.

    He pats the top of my head as I crawl across his fingers. No one looks twice at the homeless man talking to himself. He, too, is next to invisible in his disguise, but I can go where he cannot.

    “Good boy,” he says, as though I am a loyal dog.

    Loyalty. A concept I should not understand, and do not feel. If I could break away from him I would. If I could go back to the not-knowing, I would.

    I am the fly on the wall. The world does not know enough to fear me.

  33. Spies Like Us
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    210 words

    Know the best power to have if you’re gonna be a Super Spy? Invisibility.

    Sure, flying would be cool. You could get places faster. Some would say X-ray vision is essential. For, you know, secret documents and stuff.

    But for me, it’s my ability to be invisible that lets me do this job perfectly.

    I know I’m invisible, because nobody in my family pays attention to me.

    Mom’s always playing on her laptop. Dad’s watching a game. My sister’s constantly on her phone, mooning over Jacob’s hair or Justin’s eyes. Whatever.

    My brother’s the only one who ever notices me. Mostly he tells me I’m annoying. But sometimes he gives me pointers. You know, how to deal with bullies, how to sneak dollar bills out of mom’s purse, how to disappear whenever Dad’s in one of his moods.

    It was my brother who disappeared last night. Said he was done, he was outta there, he wasn’t puttin’ up with their crap anymore.

    “Good riddance,” Dad said.

    He doesn’t see me now, my brother. I’m the garbage can in disguise, spying on him from across the way.

    He looks sad. Angry. Maybe even a little lonely.

    He doesn’t need to worry, though. I’ve got his back.

    We Invisibles gotta stick together.

  34. Hide and Seek

    ***

    “How long before my trial?” asked Rasputin, nonchalantly.

    “Trial? Oh there’ll be no trial. The evidence is clear enough; our findings were independently verified and have been ratified by the High Commissariat itself. No bounty hunter, there is little need for anybody to listen to your inane babble; the decision has already been made as to your fate.”

    The mercenary folded his arms across his chest and scowled at the woman in black. “Oh yes? Well then pray tell, what is to be my fate?”

    The woman scowled back at him. “You will be sent to the early 21st Century, to the city of Paderborn in Germany. There you will stay, incognito, until you have spotted the person we are looking for. You will send a signal to us, and await further instructions.”

    Rasputin raised an eyebrow. “Ah, so you want me to kill for you?”

    The woman rolled her eyes then half-smiled at him. “Of course not! You will be a spy; that is all.” She turned away from him and began walking towards her colleagues.

    He felt his cheeks grow hot. “And this is my golden ticket out of prison?”

    The woman paused, turned her head slightly towards him. “No, but it may delay your inevitable execution.”

    ***

    @theimaginator20
    209 words

  35. Desk Job
    @lsunil
    200 words.

    Its 4.52pm. Cold. Moist.
    Why should I be the one sitting out here in the cold? They should have given it to Dylan. I would rather do a desk job. Sit in the heated offices, tap into the keyboard, do some research there. And voila! Like the movies, everything flashes onto the screen. And the mystery is solved.
    But what happens! Dylan gets the desk job and here I am waiting in the cold to look at some rich chap getting onto a car and getting away. There are three cars now. My feet and hands have become numb.
    4.59pm.
    But boss thinks I look more convincing as a beggar than Dylan. Dylan is double my size and has half as brains as me.
    5.15pm
    From tomorrow I am going to double my size. I will eat and eat and eat and get fat. Then the desk job is mine.
    7pm.
    The cars are still aligned. There comes out of the mansion a lady with her pooch. Car number one is gone. I am so numb, can’t move.
    7.17pm.
    B-but no lady had entered the mansion. Did I miss something? Better not to report it. I want that desk job.

  36. Word count – 210
    ‘Golden Ticket’
    @susanOReilly3

    Proud

    Finally out of the closet
    His eyes look less haunted
    I’ve known for years
    Tried to ease his fears
    Constantly acting the spy
    Protecting my confused boy
    New territory
    Terrain scary

    His father long dead
    he’d have been filled with dread
    Macho to the extreme
    A gay son wouldn’t have been the dream
    hard being a single parent
    But he was a lesson learnt
    Hitting me on a whim
    I couldn’t have dealt with him

    My baby’s making bad choices
    Speaking with a new voice
    Hoping this is just a phase
    Meeting guys down lane-ways
    Came home with a swollen lip
    Black and blue from neck to hip
    He’s better than that
    I’d kill for him at the drop of a hat

    Begging him to be more careful
    On my knees, pitiful
    I didn’t buy a ticket for this ride
    But I ooze with pride
    Handsome and clever
    I’ll have his back forever
    I’ve learnt so much
    He needs a gentle touch

    Walking on a tight rope
    Doing my best to cope
    One day we can have a laugh
    Next I’ve committed some homophobic gaffe
    I’m doing my best
    He’s putting me to the test
    I wouldn’t have him any other way
    He lights up my life every day

  37. Spies
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    207 Words

    “Your mission,” Devine said, slapping the folio on his desk, “is to identify spy recruits among the Russian ex-pats buying up the condos at Time-Warner Center.”

    “But sir,” Agent Harper said, “These people won’t be—”

    “It’s basic profiling, Harper.” He studied her intently.

    “I profile murderers, not traitors.”

    “A potential spy has distinguishing characteristics, just like a serial killer. Besides, they’d only be traitors to Russia. It’s the Snowden archetype we’re looking for: narcissistic, deluded with hero fantasies, an underachiever.”

    “But wouldn’t spies eschew heroics in favor of anonymity? And are you implying Snowden was working for another country?”

    “He leaked our secrets.”

    “American secrets to the American public. That’s different from American secrets to the Russians—”

    “What kind of bleeding liberal are you?” Devine snapped, handing Harper a set of keys. “Get to work. We’ve rented you an apartment in Time-Warner Center.”

    After Harper departed, Devine yanked his secure phone from his pocket. “Cormorant? Devine here. Your mission’s a go. Yes, Harper.”

    ***

    Harper’s high-heels clacked as she passed a homeless man begging on the street. She dropped a bill in his cup.

    As her slim figure disappeared around the corner, the beggar rose and adjusted his earpiece. “Devine? I’m on her tail now.”

  38. Word Count 192
    @susanOReilly3
    Golden Ticket

    Blue

    She loved it on him
    Made her want to sin
    He fulfilled her every whim
    To her begging he always gave in
    In her eyes he liked to swim
    Caused his head to spin

    How he feels without her
    Snuggled in its hue
    Sitting in her chair
    Such a sad view

    The color of her kitchen
    He smiles unknowingly
    Remembers her bitching
    Though always wittily
    From its sink she liked to spy
    On all the neighbors passing by

    Her perfume simply called blue
    Lingers in the air
    He dabs a tear or two
    Imagines sniffing her hair

    Parents called her Violet
    How could they have known?
    Her favorite palette
    And she not grown
    She must have stamped their ticket
    The seeds of love already sown

    Jarred out of his reverie
    A clapping of tiny feet
    His hand taken lovingly
    As she dances to her own beat

    Violets legacy, beautiful
    Her eyes a gorgeous shade
    He called her Belle
    Can’t believe what they’ve made
    Her names suits hew well
    Her beauty she likes to parade

    He drinks her eyes in
    That color unique
    Breaks into a grin
    His future not so bleak

  39. The Pursuit (210 words)
    Golden Ticket
    @yinglanzheng

    He sat on the sidewalk, an empty cup in his hand. It had been two weeks since he’s had a proper meal, showered, or even slept in a bed. Although his wife often came bearing take-out boxes and clean clothes, he rejected it. He had to look convincing even if he hated being unkempt.

    His attention piqued as a man in expensive suit crossed the street. The man gave him a subtle glance and walked away. Immediately, he pressed the mini-blue-tooth in his ear. “He’s on the move.” He muttered.

    “Is the suspect carrying a silver briefcase?” A voice asked on the other end.

    “Yes.”

    “Is he getting in his car?”

    “Nope.”

    “Subtly pursue him on foot but do not apply action. Repeat do not apply action.” He stood up and disposed his cup in the nearby trash can.

    He maintained his distance as he moved stealthily along the sidewalk. As the man turned the corner, he soon followed. After the man turned the second time, he suddenly disappeared, nowhere to be found. He turned anxiously searching for the suspect and suddenly found himself pin to the side of the building.

    “Who are you, huh?” The man snarled. “A spy?”

    Exactly, he grinned and clasped the handcuffs onto his wrists.

  40. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
    (210 words)

    Every day. For countless years. Before the morning fog had rolled back into the Savannah River, he was there where once he had been cruelly betrayed and left for dead.

    The Shining Folk hardly comprehended it. Why leave their glittering courts for Factor’s Walk where the ghosts of old memories and cotton brokers still roamed the cobbled streets? Why trade a throne for a mat? Why hold a paper cup instead of a scepter? Why exchange the love of his subjects for the contempt of the tourists walking down towards River Street?

    Until that day. A slight ghostly figure came out of the cold morning mist off the river bluff. Their king looked up. The pale fingers of the apparition reached out to throw back his hood.

    Slowly he stood up, grasping its hands. Slowly it materialized before him into solid form.

    The Shining Folk gasped. It was the treacherous spy, the king’s own wife who had fed him the poison of the Enemy from the very cup he now held as a beggar.

    “Why? Why not leave me to my deathless doom? It’s what I deserve!”

    “Never, my dearest!” he said, as together they left the cold mists of Factor’s Walk. “Your kingdom awaits you. As does your king.”

  41. Forgotten Frontier
    (Word Count: 210)
    Wallie the Imp and Co.

    A headline. A mystery. Here is the outline, the sketch of a story that is, and cannot be solved—a theft that loses its daring in being consigned to words. Secured for the private use of our elite, a Model-X spacecraft is stolen. The location was classified. But people talk. Others listen. I listened for years, a menial with secrets of my own. At last, it is done.
    If only they could see—.
    If they knew, would they hunt us? Would they condemn, in the light of his quiet eye, whose innocence inspired the sin? This world is failing. It is death. The air we breathe is a poisonous concentrate, and pure oxygen tickets are not cheap. We are in desperate need of charity, but there is none, not for the silent, gentle eyes that keep my heaven. We cannot afford care. He is too fragile to survive. The one life I value above existence is dying, and I cannot, will not let him go. Not when there is a chance, a hope—a dream—that I can save him.
    There are points of the universe abandoned for centuries. Sweet air. Quiet space. It is time to be free. It’s time to go home.
    It’s time to discover Earth.

  42. Jackpot
    @Emmaleene1
    (208 words) Golden Ticket

    I always dreamed of winning the lottery, a unique combination of logic and magic. As a child I lay in bed conjuring up the things I would buy, inflatable swimming pools, swings and slides. As an adult the compulsion to buy a ticket has never left. Even when I shouldn’t.
    It’s linked to my special relationship with numbers. My solace, maths helped me make sense of the world, calculations made things safe. My aptitude made them seek me out, recruit me as a special agent. Equations can predict behaviour. If you watch people long enough you can tell lots about what to expect, what’s going to happen next.
    Dreams can come true. Sometimes it’s just the wrong place and time. I never anticipated this. My chosen sequence of numbers unfurled themselves onto my television screen. I punched the air, did a celebratory-bum-wiggling dance then realised.
    Lotto tickets are evidence, bought in a particular place and time. A place and time I officially wasn’t in. To cash in my winning ticket would blow my cover, undermine serious international diplomatic relations.
    Subtle observing is my speciality. I stake out the city, put my espionage skills to use, choosing carefully before I casually deposit the winning ticket into a beggar’s cup.

  43. Non-Existent

    (210 words)
    (Golden Ticket)

    I live now among the cold concrete of the buildings and cobblestones of the street. Shadows from my deeds smother my soul. Now that I’m damaged from doing their dirty work, my life is worth no more to my old employers than the pittance in my cup.

    In many ways it’s a harder life now than when I was working. Back then you knew who your enemies were. You knew where they were and what they were up to. It was actually exciting to play the game.

    But then one day you get the assignment that makes you realize what you’ve become. After that you can never wash the blood from your hands. I can still hear the pleas of his family to let them live. Every time I close my eyes, his children stare at me, blood trickling down their foreheads from the hole where I put the bullet in their brains.

    I left after that. I melted away into the crowds clogging the sidewalks, punching my ticket into obscurity. Hopefully my employers have forgotten me or think I’m dead. Now I carefully watch every person that goes by, I try to be nothing to them.

    The only way for an old spy to exist is to be non-existent.

  44. Foy S. Iver
    @fs_iver
    WC: 208

    The Girl Unheard Becomes Unseen

    Greer didn’t say a lot. Grown-ups never listened.
    They thought they were good at hiding it –

    “Such a funny story. Run tell, Daddy.”

    – but she could tell their ears were turned off.

    “That’s nice, Darling. Eat your peas.”

    Sometimes she’d make a game of it –

    “Mmhmm. Yes, hamsters live forever.”

    – but that was only funny the first fifteen times.

    Other times she used it to her advantage –

    “If Mom said you can have more ice cream, that’s fine with me.”

    – but that wasn’t fair and turned her insides to wiggly worms.

    The day she stopped trying was gray. The sky couldn’t decide if it wanted to rain or sulk. Puddles from last night’s storm glowered for more wet, while trees, like beggars, shivered in the blustering breeze. She’d spent 3 hours creating her masterpiece, green and red paint smeared across her cheeks and fingertips. It was ready for the world’s eyes.

    She found Mommy reading magazines.

    “What a beautiful horse you’ve drawn.”

    Red tears bled onto green dragon scales; Greer let the picture fall to the floor. Outside she walked until lane became meadow, became woods, became lost. She got back, eventually, but only after the man who listened found her.

    Now she watches more than ever.

  45. Pocket Change
    210 Words
    @BradyTheWriter

    What he had been asked to do by his new employer was no longer spying. It was terrorism. Byron stood in the crowded market and rattled the change in his pocket. The metal-on-metal sounded muted in the lead-lined jacket and gloves.

    The nearby beggar’s cup was an ideal starting point for his polonium-210 infused coins to enter the currency system. The capitalist machine would take over from there and the poisoned money would enter circulation across the country. The ensuing panic would unbalance the nation enough for his new employer to make their move.

    Spying was deception as an art form. When he’d become disillusioned by his own country’s evolved tactics, the Kremlin sold him on a pure form of spy game. Now they were asking him to conduct this microscopic nuclear strike on soft targets in his own home.

    Byron collapsed before he recognized he’d been shot in the throat. He looked up to see the beggar standing above him, pulling off his false beard with the hand that wasn’t holding the silenced pistol.

    “Dammit Byron, why did you have to turn?”

    Byron considered warning his once partner about the coins that had fallen from his pocket and into the gathering crowd, but he forgot which side he was on.

  46. The Spy Who Never Dies
    @RachaelDunlop
    (210 words, Golden Ticket)

    He doesn’t even break his stride, that’s how I know it’s him. Most people at least slow down a bit. Some make a big deal of making eye contact before they drop a coin in my cup, not wanting to be patronising. But that’s exactly what they’re being, if they’d stop to think about the real meaning of the word. A noble thing, to be a patron.

    Anyway, he flicks the coin in without stopping, or looking, the fat golden disk turning in the greyness of a damp day. It’s freshly minted, not yet dulled by the taint of transaction. That’s the tip off. This is my patron.

    I’ve been waiting years for this, tipped the wink by… well, I’d best not name names. I remember, though, it stuck in my head, he said: It’s a one-way ticket, be sure you want it.

    I’m sure. I get up and follow him, my new patron. He lays another coin on a café table, where an old man sits. It is him. The Spy. It doesn’t take long. My knife is ready. And the clothes and kit are ready for me, as promised. I step into his shoes and into his life. And thus the mantle is passed. The Spy never dies.

  47. Suffer The Little Children
    209 words

    It was the splash of red that caught the beggar’s eyes first.

    Against the dull hues of the encroaching night the hint of colour had his gaze shifting away from the empty pavement to the grates above it.

    There was a little boy there, watching him, and when he realized that the beggar was looking, he darted away, one hand pressed to his mouth as he went.

    A few minutes later the beggar caught sight of him again, peering around the edge of a mailbox like a miniature spy, and the child’s antics made him smile for the first time that day.

    He wondered where the boy’s parents were.

    An elderly woman stopped to drop a few coins in his hand and when the beggar looked up, the little boy was gone again.

    “Hey, Mister, you wanna see something cool?”

    The muffled voice was closer than he expected and the beggar flinched when he caught sight of the boy only a few feet away, his hand still pressed tightly to his mouth.

    It was getting dark now and the beggar was about to tell the kid to go home but when the boy moved his hand all the of the beggar’s words shattered like glass…

    There was nothing there.

    • Life’s played a cruel trick on both beggar and child. (For one horrible moment at the end I thought the child was going to steal his coins.)

  48. Hael
    (210 words)
    Golden Ticket

    “Bum, lowlife, scum, waste of skin, loser, drain on society,” he was known by many names but recognized by no one. A solemn figure sitting on the cold concrete in an uncaring world, Hael watched the people scurrying around him.

    He’d been there a millennium. He was there when man had first gathered together in tribes. As the spoils of the hunt where torn apart and passed out, he sat meekly by the fire, waiting for a scrap of meat. In Salem, he watched the trials, taking note of the suffering of the innocents accused of witchcraft. At Gettysburg Hael lay on the battlefield with a musket ball lodged in his leg, awaiting a sip of water and comforting word. He’d stood amongst the rubble of an earthquake ravaged Haiti, a crying child hoping for someone to pick him up and carry him to safety.

    Now he sat on the street, dishevelled and dirty. Hael watched and noticed everyone around him, their actions forever recorded in his memory.

    If only people knew that a bit of food, a kind word or a few cents could buy them a ticket to heaven.

    Hael, the Angel of Kindness sat on the concrete and spied on humanity, as he’d done for a millennium.

    • A millennium of too much disappointment perhaps? But at least there are some kind souls out there. Nice story.

  49. The Informant
    @AFOdom
    206 words (“Golden Ticket”)

    The old beggar in the theater alley saw all. He called himself Shaheed, and in Mac’s line of work, she cared little for the truth of names.

    “Ah, coffee and company.” Shaheed’s bones popped as the pile of rags against the brick wall coalesced into something human.

    “Maple latte.” Mac handed him the warm cardboard cup.

    Shaheed sipped and sighed, sending some centipede-like thing back into the depths of his beard. “Story time, Aadi?”

    Not her name or the pseudonym she’d given him. She’d asked what it meant once, but he’d just smiled. She still had nightmares about the man’s teeth. “Tell me what you’ve seen.”

    “Yesterday it began.” He chuckled and shook his head. “I am wrong again. The beginning was centuries ago. Yesterday the end began.”

    Ugh. One of his crazy days.

    “You doubt me, Aadi, but the one you seek changes everything.” He fumbled in his rags, unhousing some kind of mutant roach. “I know it’s here.” The mountains of fabric around him squealed. “Aha. The ticket.”

    Mac tried not to touch his fingers as she accepted, and she ignored the warning prickle running up the back of her neck. “He will be there, then.”

    “You will find what you need. Now go.”

  50. Betrayal
    203 Words
    Golden Ticket

    The sun beat hot on my heavy, dank coat. I wipe my salt drenched face, waiting. Passersby averted my gaze, some crossing the street as to avoid the awkwardness of ignoring my plight. Others bent down and put a few scant coins into my outstretched cup, a look of accomplishment on their faces as they silently congratulate themselves on their good deed to make the world a better place.

    If they only knew what I was doing here, cleverly disguised as a potent smelling beggar. I stiffen as my target approaches the cafe’ across the street. He sits down at the shabby table, absent-mindedly scratching a lottery ticket, waiting for his informant. Won’t be long now. Soon I’ll have the traitor within my grasp.

    A women in a red coat slips quietly into the chair across from the man, an envelope in her hand. I nod in the direction of my back up. Time to move in. She’s mine now. I stumble across the street, still in character. They are surrounded, cold barrel pressed up against the man’s head. I come up behind the women and spin her around. A grin creeps across the face of betrayal.

    The face of my wife.

  51. The Thaw
    209 words

    It’s been five years. Five years he’s been living on the streets. Five years that his mind’s been clouded over with disease. He doesn’t know me, but I changed his diapers. I washed his clothes. I taught him to speak.

    Spring blooms all around me, but all I feel is winter.

    A woman ushers her child across the street to avoid my son. My blood rises, but I bite my lips. I’ve become just another statue in the park. An immovable object watching the world go by. But how can I help it? My world is begging for change on the street corner.

    Around noon I leave my bench and purchase a couple of sandwiches at the local deli. Roast beef for Nathan, ham and cheese for me. In the bathroom I dissolve a pill into a water bottle. Nathan’s only ticket to sanity.

    The gritty pavement crunches beneath my shoes as I cross the street. Tears well in my eyes as I offer him the to-go bag.

    Nathan’s eyes flash across my face. They’re red veined and dilated. Streaks of dirt run down his cheeks, matte his hair to his brow.

    Returning to my bench, I wait for him to drink the water. Hope rises, thawing my heart.

    (Golden Ticket)
    @VedBrown

  52. Second Chances,

    Hands shaking, I reach my cup towards the businessman. I avoid eye contact to avoid the collective shame of my begging. The people in thousand dollar shoes prefer to do their charity without the inconvenience of human interaction.

    I once pretended to be like them. I’d drink top shelf gins. My expense account was used for clothes in Milano and Monaco. CEOs, sultans, and drug lords alike would wine and dine me.

    The businessman stops before me. I stare at his shined leather, no-doubt handcrafted, shoes. He’s not fishing for money. He stands for several moments before turning his leg to show the unicorn emblem on the inner heelcap.

    “No,” I whisper. Not, Marius.

    “You’re recalled. I’m holding your ticket back into the dance.”

    “You forget they made me retire after the incident. I’m past my days as a-”

    “As a lady,” he says.

    Of course I meant spy, but even after all the bitterness I can’t say that work aloud.

    “Once a ‘lady’, always a ‘lady’ in my mind.”

    Marius helps me up. I pass my beggar jar, fake crutch, and horrible coat to Dorina. The firm is bringing my back.

    Suckers. Marius is right; I’ve always been a spy. Just not for the same team anymore.

    209 Words (Golden Ticket)
    @michaelsimko1

  53. MERCEDES MAN

    Brian S Creek
    208 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    My arse is numb from the cold, damp slabs that make up my pitiful throne. I’m invisible; an unwanted city landmark.

    But I’ve got eyes. I see what you can’t, what you won’t.

    Take that black Mercedes over there, the one that parks in the same spot at the same time each morning. City workers pass me by, their change secure in their pockets. As they go about their morning routines he pulls up in that over long, petrol guzzling piece of German crap. He pulls up and just sits there.

    I’ve got all the time in the world so it’s no bother to venture from my doorway and solve the mystery of the Mercedes Man.

    Besides, it does me good to stretch my legs.

    What’s that up there, what is it you’re looking at? The apartment building? And three floors up there’s a woman getting dressed for work. Is that what you’re looking at? Pert breasts snuggling in her bra. Long legs coated in stockings. Is that what you’re doing here, you perv? Is that your thing?
    I sacrifice a little from my coin cup to BT and soon a police officer approaches Mercedes Man and knocks on the window. Mercedes Man looks embarrassed.

    Totally worth it.

  54. LOST AND FOUND

    Brian S Creek
    192 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    “My God, it’s him.”

    “Yes, ma’am. Terrance Arkwright; Agent 79. Photographed this morning not far from Waterloo.”

    “Are we sure?”

    “As sure as we can be without a DNA sample.”

    “Do surveillance still have eyes on him?”

    “Yes, ma’am. He hasn’t moved from that spot since we tagged him.”

    “I still can’t believe it’s him. I’m seeing a ghost.”

    “What’s our next move, ma’am. It’s dangerous to leave him out.”

    “Very dangerous. But it will be damn risky attempting to bring him in. Who knows what’s happened to him in the last three years.”

    “What if he’s . . ?”

    “Compromised?”

    “Yes, ma’am. After all, protocol wasn’t followed.”

    “We’ll have to assume the worst until a full evaluation has been carried out. I want to know what went wrong on the Athens assignment and why the hell he didn’t come back to us.”

    “I’ll get Oscar Team briefed immediately. Will that be all?”

    “For now.”

    “Very good, ma’am.”

    “And Carter?”

    “Yes, ma’am?”

    “Go easy on him. Whatever has happened to him, whatever state he’s in, that man is a national hero. He’s saved this country more times then you’ve had birthdays.”

    “Understood.”

    • As soon as I saw the “Spy” requirement, I thought to myself, “Creek’ll have a good one for this.” And you didn’t disappoint. All dialog and plays like action packed T.V. episode. Nice. 🙂

  55. 199 words
    @thebatinthehat
    Golden Ticket

    Sunbathing in Rio

    They’ve been following me around Germany for weeks, waiting for me to slip up. Who do they think they’re dealing with?

    They clearly know little, but the sudden flurry of activity indicates they suspect the drop is today. I have to be on top of my game.

    I spot him outside the cathedral in Paderborn, swathed in dark clothing and seated on an old chair cushion to protect him from the cold cement. Shivering, he offers a subtle nod in exchange for the €5 note I slip in his cup as I pass; folded inside is a one-way ticket on a train bound for Kiev.

    His day is about to get very interesting.

    They’re on him the moment I turn the corner. Guns drawn, attack dogs at the ready, they’ll drag him to the station and interrogate him for days.

    But at least he’ll be warm.

    They’ll ask him all the wrong questions, such as who am I, and “What’s going to happen in Cairo on the 17th?”

    What they should be asking is what country is nice this time of year because I’ll be beachside by the time they realize that they were my mission, all along.

    Amateurs.

  56. Foy S. Iver

    Onset

    I’m watching.

    Can you feel me fingering your wallet? Check it. Nothing’s gone. Your license, Credit, Debit, Savings Cards–even that 50% off any one (1) package of Friskies® dry cat food coupon–all there. I don’t need those things. Your name, address, date of birth, they’re all mine.

    You’ve noticed, haven’t you? The past three months you never take the same way home consecutively. Sometimes you give a fake name–Sam or Taylor–at the café. That barista waits on you every time. It’s too late to take your identity back from her but the others don’t need to know.

    Maybe no one else cares that I’m mining their data but you’re becoming aware. See that guy in the hoodie with the Dixie cup. That’s right, tuck your head. He’s one of my watchers. Popped an unknown luminary and now he owns a beach house in Maui. Control politics, control the world.

    Get inside and shut your door; pop that cell battery out. You’ve been meaning to get rid of it. Too easily traced. Not that it matters because I’m already in here with you. You triple checked the windows upstairs before you left but you know how those locks slip. Better do your walk through.

    I’m watching.

    WC: 209
    @fs_iver
    #Flashdog

  57. @stellakateT
    210 words
    #FlashDog

    Beggars Belief

    He held out a Costa coffee cup asking for spare change. I’d seen this man many times, ignored him, imaging him going home to a nice home in a good neighbourhood, a professional beggar, earning twice the national wage. At least he didn’t have a dog with him. No that would have made my task harder.

    I chose him because I can sit quietly on this old blanket and watch the world go by. I transmit my findings and know soon that I will be rewarded. Sometimes I feel my host trying to evict me but his thoughts aren’t powerful, dulled by drug and alcohol abuse. A synapse sometimes transmits a tiny shock and for a nanosecond my data collection is interrupted.

    He seems to have had an interesting life but I try to concentrate on watching the others. For a beaten man he has immense compassion he tells me his people deserve to live. My species have no right to try to conquer the human race. My life force is weakening, my masters are wary to let me live in case this beggar reveals the plan. When he tells others he was taken over by an alien who will believe him? I transmit as I plead for my life.

  58. Dreaming of Midsummer Nights
    209 words
    @rowdy_phantom
    #flashdogs

    A butterfly landed on the edge of Robin’s alms cup and fanned its stained-glass wings.

    Robin sucked in his breath and reached out. It graced the grubby perch of his fingers. Robin inspected the glossy thorax, the knobbed antennae, the scrolled proboscis (not Fay!) and shoved it into his mouth. The insect’s ichor oozed bitterness.

    He sank back into his rags. Butterflies. How Robin missed the flutter of floral sprites, the hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds. But his world had moved on, leaving him with unyielding concrete and stale deodorant.

    He couldn’t help but glower whenever a pram rolled past. That babe dandling a stuffed giraffe? In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange. The Goblin Traders hadn’t responded to his alerts in decades.

    How could they have abandoned him, their best agent?

    Pinstriped legs hesitated, dropped coin into his cup. Robin couldn’t bear to look up. A flutter of temporary sympathy was an impoverished substitute for the long-lost revelry of Fay gatherings.

    The silver had an odd glint to it. As Robin squinted into the cup, the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.

    Robin surged to his cloven feet and, heart ignited by hope, sprinted after the pinstripes.

  59. “Amazing Disgrace”
    by Michael Seese
    209 words

    My cup is empty. Hardly surprising, considering how often in my previous life I let it runneth over. Like my tin companion, I am a hollow vessel, cast to the fringe, cursing a past so full of wanton waste that nothing could save a wretch like me.

    The others, the blessed ones, can see me. But they don’t, really. I now am a mere shadow, blended in with the background, like a mole in some spy thriller.

    A man’s fall from grace is hardly a plummet. To be (painfully self-) honest, it’s not even a slide, as sliding implies a loss of control. No, it’s a series of steps, steps taken willfully despite, or in spite of, the ever-steepening grade that I tried to convince myself was not a decline at all. But it was. So I lied, and reassured myself I was treading on level ground. Then one day, I awoke to find it all gone.

    In speaking of Purgatory, Dante said, “My son, here may indeed be torment, but not death.” How cruelly true were his words. They burn in my brain as I sit “here,” just outside the Pearly Gates, while those on the other side toss me orts of divinity.

    And laugh at my plight.

  60. “Spare Change”
    by Michael Seese
    209 words

    “Oi! Mister! Spare some coin for a mate who’s down on his luck? No? Nothing? Well, God bless, Mister.”

    The Book of Luke says, “Give, and it will be given to you… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” One man’s opinion, but it seems humanity’s yardstick has shrunk a bit since that one was penned. Going further, I’d say a lot of the “rules” have fallen into disrepair of late.

    Adultery. Stealing. Coveting. Once taboo, and now glorified by a generation that prays on the altar of the Internet which, incidentally, I would say runs counter to “You shall have no other gods before me.”

    Here comes another. Let’s see if he’s more charitable.

    Sadaiaf?” Nary a nod.

    I suppose I could discard my disguise, and present myself as the artists portray me, as the authors describe me. But then it wouldn’t be a fair test, would it? If they saw me for who I am, I imagine they’d behave differently. They might even act as if their afterlife depended on it.

    Which it does.

    It’s nearly quitting time. Soon, I will sit down with my counterpart, and divvy up the souls. Those who gave, He can call His.

    The others…

    “Oi! Mister!”

  61. Intel
    (209 words)
    My butt hurts.
    I’ve been sitting here for hours.
    I’d like to pee, but I can’t. He’s been in that café with him, sitting there without even touching his coffee.
    I don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
    I should know. But they aren’t letting me lipread from here, and they are speaking freaking Klingon, I think.
    I speak 23 languages, but this isn’t one of them.
    On top of it all, someone put a coin in my coffee, thinking I was begging.
    I’m not begging, jackass. I’m spying.
    This is supposed to be a cool job. I’m supposed to be like James Bond, you know?
    Drive a hot car. Flash cash in casinos. Drink martinis.
    But hell no.
    I’m sitting here in the freezing cold watching someone meet for coffee, while I’m dressed like a wino, getting a cramp in my legs, trying to find out something.
    He’s been with some bad people, this guy. In Berlin, in Baghdad, in Paris.
    They know he’s planning something, but when? Where?
    That guy that just sat down, I know him. He’s the kind they send drones after.
    Today it’s just me. Another kind of drone.
    What the hell was that word?
    Tomorrow? It’s on for tomorrow?

  62. Spy Vs. Spy (204 Words)
    @SarahCain78

    I know why he’s there.

    The heat from his brain rolls over me in an oily tsunami leaving me drenched in a slick coat of pulsating agony. I can’t move. I’m pinned here, forced to wait because he’s watching me.

    I don’t think my disguise has fooled him.

    We are spy versus spy.

    Neither one of us can escape our wretched posts, so we hide in the open. Yet we are not in the open because we cannot be ourselves.

    Oh! His eyes burn into me. He tries to extract my soul, but he cannot reach me. Not yet. For now I am impenetrable. He isn’t sure what he sees. So he waits and watches and probes.

    Long ago I led a normal life. In the swirls of my coffee I see faces that were once clear, now just distortions. He’s doing it to me, controlling me through the white box. I want him to let go of my brain. I want pick up my mind thoughts from the ground and go home. But the wretch won’t let me.

    He is a better spy than I am. He is winning this game, but I am patient.

    He can’t hide in the white box forever.

  63. Episodes in the Life of Edwinski (7)
    @jamesatkinson81
    http://haberdasheryofstories.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://haberdasheryofstories.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Episodes%20in%20the%20life%20of%20Edwinski
    Golden Ticket
    195 Words

    Edwinski had stolen the idea from a Sherlock Holmes story but then so much of his life felt like a ripoff that this fit right in. A short to trip to Quartermaster P later and he was all kitted out to spy.

    Earlier research had shown that the church was a good place to watch from. Many dissidents would use the free parking spaces closeby to stow their decadent western Beemers before taking their wives, or more commonly mistresses, shopping in the giant department stores.

    So far Edwinski had not seen Kropotkin but if he could catch him out here then it would only take a well placed mini explosive to end his reign of damaging data leakage. And he’d always liked to impress women with fancy goods. Making that easier had to be why he’d fled west- This was surely Edwinski’s tocket to success.

    Three months and two bouts of tuberculosis later, the spy finally saw his man. With the woman who was supposed to be seeing him only. Steffi motioned subtlety to the church, Kropotkin looked directly at Edwinski. The master spy smiled; now he would have no problem killing the girl too.

  64. The Sky Rained Blood.
    200 words
    Golden Ticket

    Rain fell in a steady downpour. Anvils, elephants, upright pianos, golden rabbit’s feet; all the things which caress the sky like a punch-drunk boxer feathering his fist across the jaw of an opponent.

    I dodged most of them, dropping a few coins into the cup of a mendicant. She hunched her shoulders in thanks. I smiled, knowing the following crew would subject her to hours of interrogation.

    I surged into the air, dodging an anvil but catching a rabbit foot on the shoulder. It dinged against my iron epaulette and I almost missed the whine of an auto-scope zoning in. I ducked behind an elephant which convulsed as the projectile hit it. Luck. That one nearly had my ticket.

    Scooting round the edge of the nearest building I took out my com-block and keyed six sigils.

    “Olaf’s pizza parlor,” a young male said.

    “Can I get a rye-base with provolone? Immediate,” I asked. The rain had lessened to a drizzle of Mason jars.

    His pause held just the right amount of hope. “Fifteen minutes to prepare. Where for delivery?”

    “Opposite Dragon’s-Bane Eyrie.”

    “Another ten minutes.”

    The auto-scope whined.

    “That’ll be too late” I said.

    @clivetern

    • Fantastic first paragraph. Very surreal feel to this piece, especially with the rain lessening to ‘a drizzle of Mason jars’, and the fact he paused to order a sandwich even though he was being pursued!

  65. Pay Attention
    205 words
    @ceckybonway
    Golden Ticket #FlashDogs

    Looking is not enough. Simple sight observation only allows you to receive the information that your eyes can hold and your brain can interpret. If you can’t keep your mind quiet, you will miss a lot. Conversely, if you spend too much time focusing, your vision becomes narrowed and you can no longer see the information on the periphery. The periphery is where the action happens.

    Take that beggar over there. Someone who is merely looking will tell you that begging is his meal ticket. Those who also listen will tell you that the cup is filled with drugs, not liquid or coin. A super sniffer will tell you that this man showered as recently as an hour ago, and he probably isn’t as poor as he is attempting to appear.

    But if you had heeded all of my words since I began this monologue, you would have realized that during our conversation, while you were sniffing to see if you could smell soap, I have stolen your wallet, removed the security codes, and placed it back in your pocket. And now I’m going to use this silencer to end your training here. I supposed I should have taught you to “trust no one” first.

  66. In Friendly Soil the Seeds of Treachery Can Gestate
    209 words

    Baz-Baz Chinelle sipped his warmed kehar. The unglazed clay mug felt like home as much as the brine-wine it contained tasted. Somewhere in his chest a place that was home pulsed with joy.
    He closed his eyes and sniffed the drink. The sound of something sliding on the wooden table was loud. He kept his eyes closed. Someone sat opposite, and tapped the table.
    Baz-Baz opened his eyes and saw half of a Yegindan lottery ticket. The corresponding half was in his purse. He looked up.
    “Hello, Baz-Baz.”
    “Hi, Finan.”
    “It’s time to get to work.”
    Baz-Baz looked round the cafe. This time of day it was filled with parents who appreciated their children’s school hours, pretend poets, and other idlers killing time. No one was paying them attention. “You’ve lost weight since Yeginder.”
    “You still limp. I could get you a mek-mek leg that’d work perfect.”
    The thought of it left a cold dead hole just below Baz-Baz’s sternum, he shook his head. “You need the other half the ticket?” He asked.
    “No,” Finan said. “We’re good. I got your contact. You know her.”
    “Who?”
    “Tandhu Fierie.”
    Baz-Baz chocked on a sip of kehar.
    “Don’t screw it up,” Finan said.

    @clivetern

  67. Jansky Noise
    204 words, @pmcolt, golden ticket

    I was nervous about my first visit to the oracle, but I had a mission. With only a few coins, I entered the noisy bazaar.

    “Spare some change?” The panhandler shook his cup at me, so I tossed him some platinum. “Jupiter happily helps he who helps the needy. You seek wisdom?”

    “How can I decrypt the Zoephage communications?” The Geminga Confederation had not known war in over two centuries when the Zoephages turned three border worlds into grey goo. Now it fell upon the Spy Corps to discover some weakness in our nanoscale enemy. A trillion human lives, from Earth to Antares, depended on us.

    “Their communications are encrypted by one-time pad.” My heart sank. OTP encryption was uncrackable without the random shared key. As I turned to leave, I gave him my remaining coins.

    “Thank you kindly for sharing with a random stranger,” said the hooded Oracle of Jupiter.

    Suddenly I realized: the swarms of Zoephages needed to share a random key across a dozen parsecs. The most accessible source of randomness was Cosmic Microwave Background fluctuations. And the Spy Corps kept detailed recordings of the CMB. Smiling, I rushed to purchase my ticket back to headquarters. Random does not mean secret.

    • Suddenly I realised and went back and re-read the Oracle’s last statement of thanks, the spy was truly rewarded by Jupiter. 🙂

  68. New Recruit
    205 words
    personalvapes@gmail.com
    *Golden Ticket*

    Were the world a great disco-ball, she would be the shattered panels of mirrored glass – broken, beautifully reflective chaos very dangerous to handle. Known only as Bug, she was – street. Savvy, cold, hard, and merciless at protecting her own against all comers. She’d had her fill of life’s lemons and was ready to grind them into someone’s eyeballs for that elusive opportunity: escape from the rough alleyways she called home.

    Street children such as Bug were perfect candidates for espionage. They learned to manufacture personae on demand at an early age, were dismissed and ignored by the rich and powerful, and considered disposable by those who would recreate them into a mosaic of unrealized destruction.

    She needed her target to show. The cold winds of Autumn were dancing through the alley behind the Embassy parking lot, flirting aggressively with Old Man Winter. Soon, Bug knew, the weather would chase away her dreams of relocation. Of money. Of a new life far removed from the gutters of childhood.

    Dreams that could only be realized by the successful completion of the task the man in the wool coat had equipped her for.

    The gun concealed in her ragged clothing, and her instructions, were her ticket to freedom.

  69. The Breakfast Club – An Ode to Simple Minds

    Dromedaries wander past, fattened humps swilling with security. “Chink”
    Orange trainers: 20p
    Notes taken, scratched onto faded cardboard, capturing every detail, surveying all that passes by. “Chink”
    Tan shoes: 50p
    Yesterday I watched for hours.
    One eyed king in the realm of the blind.
    Unseen, unwelcome. A leper, the perfect cover. If only they knew, more scribbled notes, my pencil snaps, I whittle away another sharp point.
    For years now I have watched, waited. Years of service.
    Of sacrifice. “Chink”
    Red sandals: a golden sun, nestling in my hat amongst bronze lions and silver queens.
    Gratitude fills every fibre, I wave after her, watching tall legs disappear amongst grey suits. More notes, a time check the sun at 20 past 38.
    Eventually it will fall, I make more notes, deciphering the patterns of footsteps and sunlight.
    Two walk past, snickering, plugged into white cables. They could be the enemy.
    A tall man thin like reeds in a river, mutters something, I note down each utterance hurled in my direction.
    Burnished shoes: a sandwich, cellophane wrapped.
    Open it, no razor blades or spit.
    Ugh boots: a bottle top, young voices threaten and challenge.
    Time slows.
    Movement, I glance up, tentatively noting their departure.
    Etching down everything.

    @imageronin
    205 words
    #flashdog

    • Great imagery. Your one-eyed king actually made me think of Odin and what he went through to learn the secrets of the world, but then again I’ve probably been reading too many Norse myths and I have been watching Vikings!

  70. Holding on

    I sit, a hooded nobody. She doesn’t see me. Which is exactly as I planned.

    We went out, you know, boyfriend and girlfriend; even bought a plant together.

    Then she got a promotion. And as she rose to the top, I sank, like a forgotten pebble, a souvenir from a weekend beach trip.

    So, I sit, watching her.

    Every Friday.

    She has lunch at twelve and comes to the bench in front of me to eat a ham and cheese toastie and a skinny latte. I once questioned the combination but she looked at me like I had questioned the euthanasia of her mother, and I retracted.

    I sit, hunched, begging for pity and my ticket home. She sits opposite, legs crossed, to the right, and water bottle prominently displayed. They don’t see the full-fat coke in her handbag, but I know it’s there.

    She doesn’t see me. I am a nobody; always was.

    She leaves and I pack up, strip off the dark hoodie and go buy a flat white with my change.

    Then I skulk back to the bank and resume my million dollar deals. My shirt stained with coffee and rejection.

    195 words
    @_sarahmiles_
    Golden Ticket

    • Think he really needs to let go, although there’s an element in both of them which makes me think they’ll both end up bitter, twisted and alone in their old age. Perhaps they were really perfect for each other in the first place.

  71. @RL_Ames
    (209 words)

    The Pretender

    It’s cold. It’s been getting colder for a while now. Soon I won’t be able to stay out so late. I’ll be forced back to the shelter. Forced to accept the warm bed and meal they offer up so freely. I hate taking charity. But I don’t have the luxury of refusing it anymore.

    Sometimes I pretend that I do. I pretend that I’m still in control of my own life. I imagine that I have an alter ego. That this dirty disheveled man dressed in rags is just a façade, covering up who I really am: a spy who’s gathering super secret intelligence on the city’s seedy underbelly. I close my eyes, rub my frozen fingers together, and picture the spacious and warm loft that awaits me on the other side of town when I’m done slumming it for the day. I think I’ll stop in at my favorite restaurant on my way home and pick up a juicy steak. I’m in the mood for red meat.

    It’s not real. Any of it. But thinking about it does make my fingers feel a little less frozen as I grip the old coffee cup. I keep my head down and mumble a thank you as another coin lands inside.

  72. 200 words w/o title
    @betsystreeter
    Golden Ticket! Golden Ticket!

    The Ballad of the Spy and the Assassin

    The thing I miss the most is looking into your face.

    I remember the last time. We shared coffee and clasped our hands across the table. I fell into your dark eyes. I loved your eyes so. We parted and returned to our work.

    Months later we sat back to back in a park in Paris and spoke without turning. You whispered come to Amsterdam. We could change our names and start again. Just finish the job and come.

    I knew it was impossible but I said I would come anyway.

    I’ve wiped my days in Istanbul from my mind like blood from my dagger. But they stain everything and lock me out of your life. You work in secrecy and silence and I am a blaring siren. Wanted. Marked. Notorious.

    The last time I saw you I sat posed as a panhandler in Times Square. You darted by in pursuit of your latest quarry. Best in your profession. No one can hide from you.

    Except for me.

    I returned to my room and pulled the long-expired plane ticket to Amsterdam from my bag. I ran my fingers over its tattered edges and checked my messages for the next job.

  73. Fun Gets Ugly (210 words) Golden Ticket

    He sat down with a thud and quickly held out a paper cup. Too fast. Too obvious. He looks around nervously. Rookie stuff. FAO Schwarz must be running out of good agents.
    …………………….
    This is the world of Toy Spies.
    ……………………….
    Major companies in every industry guard their trade secrets like precious children. One slip, one leak by a mole, and it’s sayonara intel. Game over. Or possibly toy over.

    It’s all about information. What is it, who has it and who got it first. Billions of dollars cling to these factors like grasshoppers to grass on a windy day. Intel means money and we all know that money is the golden ticket.

    Toy companies are ironically vicious. Creators of joy and whimsy are notorious for cut throat business practices and espionage, hacking computers and shutting down shipments of high demand games and toys. Remember trying to buy a Cabbage Patch doll? Furby? How about the Beanie Baby crash of 1998? All were the work of rivals trying to get their product to number one.
    ……………………..
    A trench coat passes and drops a quarter with a hidden microchip in the paper cup. That evening code breakers gain full access. Sayonara intel. Just try to buy the new Elmo this summer.

  74. Corporate Espionage
    210 words
    @rowdy_phantom
    #flashdogs

    “Goldfield or Proche?”

    “Beg your pardon?”

    “Whose payroll?”

    “Shhh!”

    “Don’t go gettin your dungarees in a pretzel. Your cover’s safe with me.”

    “How did you…?”

    “Can’t fake skin-grit. What did you use? Ashes from a BBQ?”

    “Fireplace.”

    “Yeah. Take a look at the real Mccoy. It takes more than a hot-tub soak to cut through that.”

    “Impressive—ugh.”

    “Slow breaths. Swallow. You’ll get used to the stench eventually—if you want to play the role right.”

    “I do. But I still don’t get how…”

    “This spot right here, you got a clear view of the Mitchell building, housing the direct competitor of Proche’s latest acquisition. And Goldfield occasionally renews their local goons—no offense—to pick up the ‘word on the street’ from the food court yonder. And FYI: you can score primo leftovers from the Mongolian grill bins.”

    “Noted.”

    “It’s all a grand production, right? Every last suit and sensible skirt you see is double-rolled.”

    “You mean…?”

    “All plants.”

    “How can that work?”

    “Swimmingly! Everyone’s so busy being a solid employee, productivity’s never been better. And since no one pulls petty office crap for fear of blowing their cover, morale’s not bad either.”

    “Then why not you? Surely you’ve been approached.”

    “Someone’s gotta earn an honest living around here.”

    • Not sure that he is that honest though. (Liked the ‘don’t get your dungarees in a pretzel’ as a change to ‘knickers in a twist’ which tends to be the British phrase).

  75. We’ll Be Free

    I know the Nithin can see me where I’m sitting on the corner of the street. It was foolishly stupid of me to sneak so close when I know they can spot me – even though the shadow cloak worked with charms of invisibility hides me from other eyes. But it was my ticket to learn the truth. Now I know how they make their poison. Now I know that my best friend has been helping them. I’d recognise the Dragon’s Bane plant anywhere. Her family’s safety bought with a bunch of thorny leaves, berries, and roots at the expense of ours. I want to throw myself at her. Claw at her. Curse her for being a traitor and murderer.

    The Nithin steps closer in order to see my face, but a mask of white clay hides my features. A ball of paper wrapped around a dragon tear buys me time as I throw it on the cobbles and let it pour forth a veil of acrid smoke. Panic grips the closest people and I run with the knowledge of how to save my people. No longer will people accept the Nithin and their magical hold on life and death here in Agraver.

    We’ll be free.

    Words: 204
    Golden Ticket

    @CarinMarais
    http://Www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  76. “Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh”

    Jesus Christ had been spit on outside some of the most elite addresses in the world. He’d also been kicked, ignored, taunted, and forcibly removed. Who had time for the least among us when there were billions at stake?

    To be fair, He’d also been knifed, robbed, and ignored by people living in abject poverty. For what good is the golden rule when your children haven’t eaten since the day before last?

    Today, He was outside a church, and He’d been on Earth long enough to know that nothing would be different here. The people inside sang hymns of praise to Him, but not a one recognized that the foul-smelling man in the dirty robe begging on the steps was their Savior.

    The men and women on the television talked about His imminent return as if He’d come with angels and thunderclaps. But what lessons has a child learned if she only behaves well out of hope of a reward or fear of punishment? He’d watched these people, the ones who cried out so desperately to be saved but had learned nothing about what He’d taught them. And He knew that loving someone sometimes meant letting go.

    This time, He did nothing to intervene when His Father caused the seas to rise.

    210 words
    @drmagoo

    • The end is nigh then – always wondered how anyone of faith would be able to recognise the return of their god(s) or prophet(s) without those who make the claim being dismissed as crackpots.

    • Really powerful message, for those with faith or none at all. Great stuff, drmagoo.
      (However: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign. / No more water but the fire next time.”)

  77. All of the Above
    @voimaoy
    209 words

    We have perfected our invisibilities, you and I. The art of disappearing takes years to master. You say you were wounded in the nameless war, one of many so disfigured. And now, due to austerity cuts, you’ve fallen between the cracks. Of course, I believe you. Why shouldn’t I?

    You can’t make that stuff up. You don’t have to. Like you, I have been wounded in the endless, nameless war. Like you, the real wounds don’t show.

    You say you were betrayed, forgotten, and I believe you. You say you have nowhere to go. Come with me. I know a place that offers shelter, soup and bread, but to get there requires bus fare. Here, let me help you.

    Why are you so surprised, it’s not as if I’m some kind of angel. I could be anyone, depending on the papers, or the time of day. I could be dressed as a businessman tomorrow, or a waitress, a janitor, a student, a grandmother. I am all of the above.

    This is life during war time, now. The spies are coming out of the shadows. The forgotten will be remembered, and the broken voices speak.

    We are not invisible. We are one people. We are all, all of the above.

  78. Twisted Time

    I don’t know where I am. The place looks familiar in a time-twisted sort of way. The shop over there should be the bakery. The sweet shop across from me. But they’re gone, suddenly, disappeared overnight. Someone came to change everything.

    “Crazy crone,” someone mutters as they walk past.

    Why is the sweet shop selling gambling tickets?

    I want to play, but I feel drained. My mind feels strange. Someone changed everything.

    Something clicks.
    I wonder why I’m sitting on the cobbles. I should be at home where it’s warm. In my hand is a piece of chalk. Next to me, in a cup, more pieces. There’s a picture on the cobbles of a house with a tree and a family. It looks like it was drawn by a child, but I don’t see any children close by.

    My fingers are covered in coloured chalk dust.

    What on Earth am I doing here, spying on old shops?

    I don’t know where I am. The sweet shop is gone, but I have chalk to draw with. None of the other kids want to play with me.

    A beautiful lady in a silver dress comes to sit next to me.

    Something clicks.
    “Time,” I ask. “What have you done to me?”

    Words: 206
    Golden Ticket

    @CarinMarais
    http://Www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  79. Counter Intelligence: No. 2

    Damn! He’s spotted me! He’s speaking into his headset.
    Street beggars invisible? To Joe Public maybe. To the surveillance and security fraternity, people like me are subjected to intense interest.
    I grab my sleeping bag and slip into the side street.
    *
    The rules change in the supermarket; a grubby, bearded, smelly scumbag carrying a filthy sleeping bag stands out like a turd in a punchbowl. A middle-class mother stares in disgust, clutching her small child tightly to her side as I walk by, heading for the delicatessen counter.
    There’s only one customer but the guy serving him isn’t Barracuda. Stay calm. No-one else is waiting in line but I take a ticket from the dispenser anyway: number 2.
    *
    ‘Can I help you, Sir?’
    I look around, then lean closer to the assistant. His nose wrinkles, face contorts.
    ‘The wild goose flies south for the winter.’
    Discomfort is written on his face: he’s got the nutter. ‘G-goose? Goose… liver… paté?’
    Not Intelligence then. ‘Is Gordon Arliss here?’
    ‘N-no. He’s in hospital. The Manager said he was knocked down this morning. Hit and run apparen….’
    I turn to leave. But, before I get to the aisle, I hear the insensitive bastard spray air freshener where I had been standing.

    @GeoffHolme
    Word Count: 207
    Golden Ticket

    • Wow! I love the awareness of changing perceptions. (“The rules change in the supermarket…”) And I really get a feel of the character’s urgency – from beginning to end, though he still makes time for social commentary. Lol But it feels very natural, very human. E.g., even if we were running for our lives, we would still definitely note the air freshener. I know we would! But none of it is fluff. Every word builds the world and/or moves the story forward. Nicely done!

      • Wow, KM! I’m blown away by your taking the trouble to analyse my story so deeply and leave such a detailed reply. And all so positive – thank you so much!

      • Thanks, Steph. I got my inspiration from todayschapter’s title and the ticket prompt, as well as the fact that so many stories reiterate the truism that beggars are invisible – yes, but only in their domain: the street.

        I once had a temp job in the wine and beer section of a central London department store. We frequently had beggars coming in to buy a can or two of Special Brew. The aroma was usually overpowering but we tried to let the customer leave the section before deploying the air freshener!

  80. The Target
    They thought he could avoid me, but I never lose my guy.
    I study my target once more. A light breeze delivers the scent of unwashed body. His eyes are downcast and he’s holding his precious mug. As if he needed any money. I know the type: Fat pocket from doing dirty business for government scumbags. That bankroll ends tonight.
    But first, one more task requires completion. I creep into his nearby headquarters. Always alert, I edge towards the information center and insert my flash drive to begin uploading. Abruptly, my well-honed senses note another’s approach.
    “Wh-wh-what are you doing to that monitor?” One of their agents.
    I jump up, grab the drive and dash towards the door. She reaches for the button on her belt. Only seconds remain….
    “Assistance, please! Patient needs inter-muscular!” She yells as I race down the corridor, shouting my triumph.
    I’m met in the hallway by large fools in dark blue, attempting to divert me from my mission.
    “Hey, Lavardo, buddy, time to go back to your room.” My arms are grasped as I attempt to dodge them. A needle descends upon my arm and softness encloses my body and I’m floating back to headquarters, protesting, “My target, I’ve got to get my…”
    210 words

  81. THE KEILLOR
    WC = 201 (04-10-15) Golden Ticket
    A gray, dank day on the river as I take wing to my office. Fresh drippings from the dock market call me, but I navigate away from the olfactory delights and bump into a dark, hooded figure upon the wharf. I’m compelled to study him. I can’t. I have an appointment with a paying client. Her scent wafts through memory pathways constructed during our last meeting. She may be my meal ticket this week.

    Covert tactics will come into play. My new job requires some logistics and skills only I possess. First I wash my hands and face, clearing my eyes and mouth with a dab of water.

    She watches and talks to me as I prepare.

    “What did you say? You need me to be clandestine? On the wall?”

    I gather she must require this info soon. We take our leave, and I race back to the wharf, past the place where the hooded guy had sat, and on to the address given me.

    Checking in through an open window, I find that same hooded guy with a woman, and it’s not my client. Just as I blend into a wall, the woman spies me………….

    SWAT!

    “Fly Noir, no more.”

  82. Reality is a Harsh Mistress
    Evan Montegarde
    209 Words
    Golden Ticket!

    Whatever happens to old spies, used up, washed out, angry and grey?

    In theory they would never grow old but die gloriously on some terrifying but high society mission, a ticket to a life filled with drama, luxury, exotic scenery, top shelf babes and unbelievable villains.

    Reality, of course, is a harsh mistress. Once a spy grew “old” (40 is ancient), with wrinkles, old wounds and emotional baggage that would make a Ninja suicidal, it was time to “retire.”

    Nobody really ever retired in the “Trade” as in theory they should have expired on one of the many insanely dangerous missions they routinely endured. But, on occasion, one particularly industrious agent somehow was still around at their 40th Christmas party, awkwardly circulating with the Millennial contingent, all tech-savvy, fresh faced and iPhone laden.

    So it was with Jared Pike as he sat on his haunches in the square, a cup extending from his quivering hand. But, of course, Jared was always underestimated for his survivability. Hidden beneath the hobo exterior, Jaden held the trigger to the EMP bomb floating above the skyline riding an indifferent drone. As the city’s elite strolled by ignoring him, he smiled as he pushed the plunger sending humanity back to the Stone Age.

  83. Red Froth Erupted
    210 words
    @chriswhitewrite

    She looked down at the ticket in her hand.

    The rain beat down, drumming a tattoo on the windows, and she understood why, really, she did.

    But he had to understand too.

    She wasn’t finished making him understand.

    “So, Hong Kong – nice this time of year.”

    He nodded, whimpering through the gag – it was crusted with his snot – he must have been having trouble breathing by now.

    Good.

    “Shame it’s monsoon season.”

    Panic flitted across his eyes. It wasn’t the same anymore. The great game had changed, what with outsourcing and the lowest common denominator. College kids and tech nerds.

    She punched him, unexpectedly, let him drop to the floor.

    He struggled again against the ropes that bound him to the chair, but she was listening to the voice in her ear.

    “Can’t you hurry it up? It’s pouring out here.” She chanced a look out the window, he was still there, the only homeless man on the street, seemingly muttering to himself in the rain. She wondered where he got the little dog from – but realised that she probably didn’t want to know.

    “So. Hong Kong. Why?”

    His eyes rolled back in his head, and red froth erupted beneath the gag.

    She needed someone else to answer her questions.

  84. “When will Tuesday arrive.”
    @cylemmulo
    209 words
    Golden Ticket

    “No matter what happens, we won’t abandon you.”

    I had heard those words at least 20 times before they assigned me here; Hell, I believed them.

    I never realized how easy it would be to manipulate me with them. So many fine points in my contract that I didn’t think through.

    Passers would flick coins in my direction now and then, but I barely had enough to get a bus ticket let alone buy food. That was part of the deal though, I was fending for myself like they stranded me on an island.

    36 weeks, 252 damn days since I had heard anything from the agency. Communication was gone, we were at radio silence. Aside from that I still had no clue what I was looking for; I was simply jotting down everything I saw with no rhyme or reason. The best clue I had to go on was the last contact: a note with a nuclear symbol and the word “Tuesday” above it. I’d been waiting 36 Tuesdays for this to end.

    This “mission” was nothing more than a prison to me. I knew bad things would happen if I decided to break my cover. I sat writing, waiting for the Tuesday when the world would explode.

    • I think Tuesdays are usually my least favourite day so if we’re going to go then, you’ve chosen the right day. Patient soul though, I would have given up after the first week!

  85. @AzelynKlein
    Interns
    209 words

    At age seven, my twin sister Camilla wanted to run a zoo. At age 14, she wanted to be a secret agent. Now at age 22, she works as a veterinarian intern. That’s what she tells me, anyway. When we meet up for our weekly coffee at the waterfront, she drops a twenty in a homeless man’s empty cup. The man—a scraggly dog—says nothing.

    “How can you do that?” I ask her after we’ve passed him.

    Cam stops. “He needed it.”

    I keep my mouth shut. Could he be one of her pet projects or colleagues? Sure enough, he’s trailing behind us and whispers, “They need you.”

    Cam gives me the look. The one where the vet is about to perform surgery, and I’m a mere liability. I huff and nod. It’s not like I can stop her. Not as she slips out her gun and slinks away like a cat. The beggar fixes his eyes on the waterfront and resumes his watch.

    I head back to my car, hands in my pockets. But I’m safe. Alive.

    People are animals. Sometimes they need a strict vet like Cam. Unlike myself, a useless goldfish trapped as an office intern who’d never have Cam’s heart to be a spy.

  86. Icarus
    @jmarcarelli
    208 words
    Golden Ticket

    I kneel in the slime left by a thousand rain cycles and hold out my cup. Acid from the atmospheric vents overhead drips over the porcelain rim.

    A man stumbles by, his skin blistered like all the other sufferers here. Rumor has it the disease rose from terraforming imbalances as the first miners arrived.

    It’s called the Icarus Syndrome, taken from some Lost Earth myth. Named for the hubris of those who can’t leave well enough alone. They sent me. Government officials who can’t let go of a trillion pounds of whatever passes for coin these days out in the ‘verse. I was sent to spy out the ore that will power a thousand worldships.

    Except the miners never found it.

    And I’m not interested. My hope is in the ship legend told me was buried here. Solar wings on a battered hull. An engine fueled by the same acid falling into my cup. Soon, I’ll sail close enough to the bloated monstrosity of a star this system calls a sun to collect the energy the ship needs to make that one jump all the way back to the ancient world where humanity took its first wide-eyed steps into the void.

    This vessel is my ticket home.

  87. Blue Suit

    “This guy sucks, he doesn’t deserve our money,” someone yelled out. The crowd laughed timidly. The beggar continued his song:

    “Change ch-ch-ch-ch ch. Change-change ch-change change-ch. Ch-ch change-ch.Change-ch-ch-ch ch-change-ch-ch ch-ch-change ch.”

    A man wearing a camouflage baseball cap walked over to a man wearing a blue suit. The man in the cap brandished a black and silver Glock 9mm and unloaded 7 rounds into the blue suit man. The crowd dispersed screaming from the epicenter like seismic waves.

    Camouflage cap calmly stooped down and pulled the class ring off of blue suit’s left ring finger. A kill confirmed. He then walked toward the beggar and deposited the ring in the paper cup, smiled, and walked away. He reached the corner and threw the cap into the garbage. He then disappeared around the corner.

    The beggar poured the ring into his palm and inspected it with one milk-clouded eye. He stood up and disappeared around the opposite corner.

    208 words
    @goldzco21
    #flashdogs

      • Stick the rest of the story in a reply to yourself, I want to know if I was on the right track with the beggar’s song – story worked quite well in its truncated form as it had me trying to think up the possibilities. 🙂

    • I’ve assumed the song was a code for the cap man to find his target. (Although I kept hearing David Bowie in my head!). Liked the story.

    • “The mass of people huddled around the blind beggar who shook a paper cup. The people were mesmerized by the odd song he was chanting. It was off beat and seemed to lack rhyme or reason but they packed around still, though no one dropped a single coin in the cup.”

  88. The Cost of Wishing
    210 words
    @ecjlewis

    I followed him to the old library. He’d said nothing was wrong, but the half-rotted, dusty books multiplied in his study and increasingly I was alone in bed, feeling the sheets cold and smooth beside me. And he’d never looked this drawn, not even during his mother’s illness, or the funeral.

    So I followed him down dark wood-panelled corridors, to a small room tucked away in breathless silence. I peered through the door’s wire-checked glass.

    He stood with his back to me. Beyond him was…a man? But so pale, almost blue, his lips stained dark.

    The stranger looked up, into my eyes, and I fell into two black holes…

    …Standing at the library steps. Had I entered? But I was facing away. Why had I come…?

    “Spare some change?”

    A beggar sitting by the steps held out a paper cup. I found a coin, reached over to drop it in. The beggar’s other hand snaked out, skin forget-me-not blue, and grasped my wrist with fingers of icy iron. I looked into a face becoming more and more familiar, the sightless eyes clearing, lifeless skin reviving.

    “Shouldn’t have followed” she whispered, and I felt my life draining into his mother’s risen corpse, still clutching my wrist.

    Then even that was gone.

  89. Tickets Please
    (Golden Ticket)
    210 words
    by Alicia VanNoy Call
    @callthewriter

    “Tickets, please.”

    The line shuffles forward. The ship gleams, a giant chrome curve beyond the hangar.

    I rub my thumb along the scar inside my wrist, praying.

    A new voice: “Don’t do it.”

    This voice — insistent, guttural. I crane my neck. A single figure shadowed in a blanket, sitting outside the door.

    “You’re going to your doom,” he says.

    It’ll be my turn soon.

    None of them suspect.

    I’ll be the first spy on the ship. I’ll follow where my family disappeared.

    “Tickets, please.”

    I’m second in line, alongside the shrouded figure. He turns, a slow crank of the head. The blanket falls back and he’s staring at me. Or would be, if he had eyes; the sockets are dry and leathery.

    “Why are you going?” he demands. “They don’t want you.” He struggles to stand.

    And then I’m at the head of the line.

    “Tickets, please.”

    I hold out my wrist and the tech scans the pass. I hold my breath. The scanner beeps red.

    “Scan it again,” I manage a watery smile. “It glitches.”

    This time the scanner beeps green.

    “Don’t go!” the man screams. “You’ll be nothing!”

    I look back once, and he’s flailing against security.

    “Sir?” Another tech stops me. “Right this way for processing.

    • “If I don’t get on that ship, I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow But soon, and for the rest of my… AA-AARR-RGHHH!!”
      Great tension building. Loved the wrist pass ticket.

  90. 208 words

    Sometimes They Come Home

    Every evening for the past two months Judy parked in the same spot and watched. In the past, she’d parked farther away in case he recognized the car. There was no need for that now. During an episode—a loaded word, she thought, there was little he recognized at all. The doctor had told her to expect more volatility and greater frequency, but knowing bad things are coming rarely makes them easier to handle.

    She moved forward in her seat for a better view and caught a glimpse of her eyes in the rearview mirror. She hadn’t slept more than four hours a night since the last episode. In the glow of the street light she imagined the huge, puffy, black half-moons under her eyes enhanced their blueness.

    Like the nights before, just before the cops ushered society’s odds and ends into the homeless shelters, she’d walk by and place five singles into his cup. Maybe tonight he would recognize her and come home, she hoped.

    More accurately, she wished. Because hope implies facts and logic which tether a desire to reality. Whereas wishing, wishing is a fool waiting to win the lottery or a middle-aged woman imagining the puffy black half-moons under her eyes make them sparkle.

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