Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 20

WELCOME BACK (or welcome for the first time, ya beautiful newbies)! It’s yet another week of yumminess here at the dragons’ lair. First announcement: look for our second Flash Dash contest on Saturday May 2 at 10am Washington, DC time. The Flash Dash contest is crazy quick: you’ll only have until 10:30am to post your story. Yep: just thirty minutes! Up for grabs: a Flash! Friday logo coffee mug and oh, let’s say $25 just cuz. I’ll try to remind y’all a LOT this next week. 

And just as exciting:


I’m already amazed by the quality of applications so far. In the mood to go behind the scenes at the Flash! Friday party??  The application deadline is May 8; the newest judging party starts mid-June. Details here.

WALL OF FLAME: Have you participated at FF three times this month? Details regarding how to earn the rights to the very spiffy Ring of Fire badge, as well as the names of our current fabulous badge holders, can be found here.


DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha (and by the way, if you haven’t feasted your dragon eyes on Pratibha’s new venture The Literary Nest, please be sure to do so!). Speaking of feasting, you’ll be unsurprised to hear I caught them in the middle of a jumbo marshmallow war (again!); if I hadn’t intervened, who knows what state our world might be at this moment. As for your stories: they both love fleshed-out characters, which fits beautifully with this week’s required story element. And since I’ve confiscated the marshmallows, they’re likely already licking their lips, eager to bite into your stories.    


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.


(1) Required story element (this week: conflict. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, the below conflict must be your story’s primary one. Note: this is the traditional description and is NOT gender-specific.) 



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:


Scene from the Hungarian film "Márciusi mese," released in 1934. Public domain image.

Scene from the Hungarian film “Márciusi mese,” released in 1934. Public domain image.

476 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 20

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 201

    Ship, Sailed

    My white satin glove slides across your shoulder, trailing a residue of fractured emotions. The smile I paste on my face acts a million charades for an audience of one, but you do not applaud.

    “Stay,” you whisper. Your hands grasp my waist, straining to contain the bird that longs to soar. I’ve thrown my hood, my feathers are preened and prepared for flight, and you are the only tether.

    We played a long while, you and I, as the sun shone its warmth across our common path. You’d promised that the trail would be a long one, that the valleys would not swallow us, that the mountains would not overwhelm us. You’d twisted your promise into a band of gold and slipped it onto my naïve finger, and you’d smiled with reptilian satisfaction. A crocodile’s smile—falseness in every crease.

    I trail a gloved finger across your cheek, tracing the ghost of lipstick not my shade that stains your collar.

    “Stay, and I’ll make it up to you.” You’re confident, poised, sure that I won’t gain the courage. Victory tints your thick, betraying lashes; you’re already leaning in for the victory kiss.

    “Goodbye, darling.” My satin glove slips.


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 195


    Stop following me.

    Your foot taps in my field of vision, the sole beating the floor with the tempo of impatience. You wait for me to glance up, to smile the acceptance for which you’re hoping. You hover over me at my locker, you lounge in the desk beside me, you sprawl your lunch over my side of the table in the cafeteria.

    I’m not interested.

    Like an attentive puppy, you dance around my locker after school, fidgeting with the locks on the surrounding metal doors, dropping pens on purpose so you can pick them up, so you can have an excuse to stay nearby. You don’t want me to suspect, after all.

    I already know.

    When I refused your offer to take me to the dance, you didn’t deflate as I’d expected. Instead, you meet me at the door and trail me inside, clumsily dismantling my coat from my shoulders. Your conversation is stilted, awkward.

    I’m sorry, truly.

    I twist away and throw my arms around the first boy I meet (besides you). As I kiss him, your world fades to black, and you turn blindly for the door.

    I am no one’s sun.


  3. Who Gets to be Adam?
    (205 words)

    We both knew it was coming down to this, it was unavoidable.

    She’s the last girl left in this lonely world that agreed to date either one of us. Although I don’t see what’s wrong with me. I think the grey striped suit is flattering to my figure. My robust frame speaks of strength yet my soft eyes speak of compassion. The tie around my neck is tied in a perfect knot and you don’t even have a hankie in your pocket.

    When she needs a tissue, she’ll see you as the hankieless buffoon that you are.

    We could have fought over her, but I didn’t want to tarnish my good looks and gentlemanly demeanour. A game of wits seemed to be the best way to resolve the dilemma. To be honest, you didn’t seem that bright.

    In the end, you won the game, you get to kiss her. You get to be the Adam to her Eve.

    Well played my nemesis, well played. However, should we find ourselves in this situation ever again it will be decided by dueling pistols or swords. I would never have agreed to settle it this way if I’d known you were the world champion of rock, paper, scissors.


  4. Tiddlywinks
    (210 words)

    “Don’t look so surprised, is it not fair that the maiden has fallen for my good looks and dark locks of hair”

    “No sir it is not fair. True, you may have the wavy locks, chiseled jawbone and steely eyes that many women find attractive, but you also have the wits of a goat.”

    “And you sir, have the look of a bowling ball atop your head. Tell me, is that hankie in your pocket used to dull the sheen that blinds others when you sweat.”

    “As I say sir, the wits of a goat. And tell me, should the lady sneeze or need to wipe a crumb of food from the corner of her mouth, how will you be of assistance? This woman deserves a man of intellect and manners. Not some buffoon without a hankie.”

    “A man of intellect? Perhaps you’d like to challenge me to mental duel, a contest of the mind that will put an end to this pitiful conversation.”

    “Pfft, it would be child’s play to defeat a mental midget like you. Perhaps a game of tiddlywinks or hide and seek? Or would they be too complex for you?

    “Of course they’re beyond a mental midget like me. I suggest rock, paper, scissors.”

    “You’re on.”


  5. ‘Justice in Size Six Shoes’

    “Come with me,” Marcus purred. “I can give you everything a woman such as yourself deserves.”

    George’s hands balled into fists as Maribeth sidled over to Marcus with a sultry smile, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You have the deed?”

    With smug arrogance, Marcus placed his hands upon her waist. “Close to my heart, the same as I hold you.”


    George’s hands relaxed in shock, satisfaction, and faint arousal when with a smile that was two parts mischief, one part malice, and completely captivating, she brought her knee up sharply.

    Marcus collapsed with an undignified squeal of pain.

    She danced away, the deed from Marcus’ inner pocket clenched protectively in her hand.

    “Darling?” George breathed. Oh, how glorious she looked when riled!

    “Couldn’t let this reprobate get away with cheating my man, now could I?” She pressed a kiss to his cheek.

    “You…” Marcus’ threat disintegrated into a yelp as Maribeth planted a size six into his ribcage.

    Wrapping an arm around her waist George escorted her from the room, mentally planning to ensure Marcus wouldn’t bother them anymore. “I ever tell you how much I love you?”

    She gave a saucy wink in reply. “A girl could get used to such talk.”

    -Maven Alysse


  6. @Viking_Ma
    The Gong Beater

    She was a stuck up bitch, Florence. She thought that she could come between us.
    Well, she thought wrong. I grinned as she lay beneath me, and I trailed the gong beater over her face. Fear made her a waxy statue with a smackable face. Whore.
    I used the beater to change her looks, the beautiful features no more. She screamed, at first, as each wet smack altered her face forever.
    Afterwards, I smoked a cigarillo and stood looking down. She had brought it on herself, the little snake. You were due home in minutes, so I tidied up. The place was a mess!
    The snake-whore groaned on the floor, so I kicked its ribs viciously as I polished the gong. It curled up like a baby animal. Pitiful.
    Then, there you were. My handsome man, busy feet pounding the front steps, head full of work, still immaculate in your grey suit.
    ‘Hi Oscar,’ you said, throwing a newspaper carelessly onto the bureau.
    Then you saw it.
    ‘Florrie!’ you screamed.
    I smile slightly, seeing if you will comprehend my message.
    But you don’t. You cradle the bloody chopped-liver-snake head and croon to it, telling her that she’s still beautiful to you.


  7. Josh Bertetta
    “What’s in a Name?”
    202 Words

    “We can’t keep going on like this.”

    A heavy sigh followed an “I know.”

    “It’s wrong.”

    A long and uncomfortable silence followed an “I know, I know.”

    “But…that doesn’t mean I don’t love you Kelley.”

    A faint smile followed an “I know. I love you too Robert.”

    “It’s just…”

    “You’re married.”


    A frown followed an “I know.” Then there was added, after a long look away, “It’s unfortunate.”

    “I know, I know…It’s just…Ah! I don’t know, I’m so…Ugh! I hate this.”

    “Tell me about it.”

    “I mean when I look at you…it’s as if we were meant to be together.”

    “I feel the same way.”

    “Do you?”

    “Of course I do Robert, of course I do.”

    “There’s just too much to lose.”

    “I know there is.”

    “For both of us.”

    “Do we break it off then?”

    Robert took Kelley’s hand. “I love you and I will always love you.” He stroked Kelley’s fingers. “Still, I can’t help but feel guilty…That it’s wrong. That I’m a bad person. As much as I hate hearing myself say it, I think we have to.”

    The door slammed open.

    Kelley straightened his tie as Robert, an uneasy smile on his face, embraced his wife.


  8. Subterranean | Suburbia

    @making_fiction #FlashDog

    208 words


    He is a mole, an earthworm, a grubby traveller of dirt; his eyes so accustomed to darkness that they have blinded him to reality.

    She is a songbird that lives in the yellow warmth of sun and in the glow of company. She savours every breath. She finds beauty in the laughter of other men. She cries with happiness in the frozen winters, for the pain of cold reminds her she is alive.

    His lumpy duffle coat hides his hi-vis uniform; image is important to her. He trudges the avenues of picket fences, the slats of blinding white, before he rides the infinite slats of gunmetal-grey tracks beneath his underground train, beneath the pretence of all this.

    She escapes to the real: her smile, her endurance, oh the way that she has coped with such tragedy. She escapes to the fake: the hollow embrace of other men.

    She longs to hold her earthworm husband.

    He escapes to the real: to the hissing of closing doors. To robotic announcers. To the whoosh of tunnel-winds. He escapes to the fake: to the lights that blur past his window of darkness, as if he is flying the vacuum of deep space.

    He longs to fly with his songbird wife.


  9. Word Count 198

    Lingering Scent

    He married a delectable sweet smelling rose
    Could not foresee the many woes
    Her deliberate actions would compose
    His devotion is all he knows
    Wooing her daily with flowery prose

    A flirtatious coquettish flower
    Men with kisses she showers
    Her irresistible mysterious power
    Nagging wives’ husbands cower
    In fear of a face so sour

    She spread her petals far and wide
    His loving beautiful bride
    No longer a source of pride
    His enemies point and deride
    Down and out his stride

    The final straw was his best mate
    Whose opinion he used to rate
    They both licked the same plate
    Parting of ways their fate
    Awareness came too late

    They came to blows
    Her delight in their pain shows
    Her notches arranged into rows
    With self-awareness she glows
    Caused many a divorce

    She’s a lingering scent
    He now repents
    The passion he spent
    A haunting torment
    The bitter pill potent

    His rose had thorns
    His feelings scorned
    The loss of his friend he mourns
    Their both feeling alone and forlorn
    Grateful no offspring was born

    Incorrect their assumption
    There had indeed been a conception
    She had the gumption
    Both of them to summon
    For support of her son


  10. Dinner Guest
    Sarah Unsicker
    199 words

    Jane was taking her favorite dinner from the oven when the door opened. All she could think about was sitting down with a glass of Merlot while her husband watched the children for a while.

    “Jane? I hope you don’t mind, I brought a colleague for dinner tonight.”

    I don’t have the energy for this, she thought.

    “Where should I hang my coat?” she heard a familiar voice say.

    Jane’s heart pounded as it always did when she heard that deep voice. That voice that had whispered in her ear just the night before, whiskers scratching her cheek. Larry’s voice.

    “You’ve got such a lovely house here,” Larry said. “I just hope that someday my girl and I can settle down in a place like this.”

    The kids ran downstairs. “Daddy, Daddy,” they shouted.

    “Don’t climb on me–Don’t climb on Mr. Jones!”

    Jane laughed in spite of herself. Finally, someone else to entertain the children. With relief, she thought, At least John is introducing them to him, not me.

    “I have a meeting tonight that I have to get to,” she called out to them.

    And with that, she left out the back door and went to a movie.


  11. The Thank You
    A.J. Walker

    Helen draped her arms around Timothy looking fondly up at his thin pasty face.

    “You’re so clever Timmy!” She said, in high pitch excitement.

    Timothy stepped back in alarm at the tartan terror groping him as Samuel looked on from behind incredulous at his girl fawning over his housemate.

    Samuel coughed drily.

    “So so clever.” Helen said. “And I’ve just noticed you’ve wonderful blue eyes. Like pools they are. I feel I could dive right in.”

    Timothy wanted to run away, but was pinned against the desk by the mad woman.

    Samuel coughed again. Louder.

    “Helen, I am here you know.”

    “Oh darling, I know. But Timmy deserves a reward, don’t you think?”

    Samuel heard his stomach grumble, this was not good for his reflux.

    Timmy looked over to Samuel with a strange combination of fear and stoicism.

    “Timmy, do loosen up. It’s like hanging of a statue.”

    Samuel’s stomach grurpled like a volcano about to erupt.

    “Helen. Leave the man alone. He doesn’t need or – I hope – want this attention.”

    Timothy nodded. “Yes, please. Please let go of me.”

    “But you deserve a kiss, my clever blue eyed beautiful man.”

    “Look. I only changed our gas provider. Just took one call. It really was nothing.”

    “Sweety! So humble too.”

    (210 words)


  12. Watercolour

    Time slows in these moments now, stretches out beyond him into the unfathomable distance. She catches herself looking as though she might see it and conjure it back. Her body becomes mechanical. She parts her lips, a whisper too wide, into a smile. She holds him, with a hint of rigidity, in an embrace.

    He is her rock, her harbour wall.

    She raises her hand to stroke his face, a fraction too slowly. It all requires effort now to remember their routine, their familiar dance of togetherness. She traces his cheek thoughtfully, effortfully, and gives her eyes to his. She searches for clues that he might know, but none appear.

    He is beautiful. Her oil painting.

    Before her body belies her she looks down, and allows herself to seek shelter in him. She swallows the guilt and pulls him to her to hide the shudder.

    What she would give to un-kiss those unfamiliar lips.


    He holds her close and feels the storm of her sadness wash through him.

    He won’t ask. She won’t tell.

    Time will be kind, he thinks.


    He looks at the empty space that fills his bed. His only companion, a ticking clock.

    He was just a watercolour.

    He will wash off.

    207 words @waiting2blossom (formerly @dragonsflypoppy)


  13. It’s Not Easy Being One of the Beautiful People
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    210 words

    He acts like I do it on purpose.

    It’s not my fault the ladies find me irresistible. With hair this fabulous and eyebrows that strike sardonic poses at the flick of a muscle, the miracle is I’ve only got one broad attached to me at the moment.

    Can’t he see? I’m not even embracing her. Not really. She’s clinging to me, but I’ve got my hands elsewhere, to prove to him my loyalty. My fidelity.

    The flowers he gave me are right there in the vase next to her, proudly displayed. I’m wearing the tie he gave me for our six month anniversary. I’ve even used that special aftershave that he’s so fond of.

    Yet I see the suspicion in his eyes.

    I get it. I’m a handsome man.

    He always wonders why I’m attracted to him. “I’m fat,” he says, more often than not. “I’m balding. I have a face only a mother could love.”

    Little does he know how those things appeal to me. No one chases him. No one treats him as a slab of meat for consumption, all eyes and hands and suggestive smirks and ass pats when they think no one’s looking.

    He’s who I’d rather be. No artifice. No secrets.

    Just himself. Honest.



  14. Brothers at Arms

    “Gee willikers I’m glad to meet you, Uncle Jonathan. I didn’t even know I had an Uncle Jonathan. You’re so . . .Why, you’re so handsome,” I couldn’t believe my dad had never introduced me to his brother before.

    “Tut,tut, Winnifred, get off the man.” Dad’s voice sounded so gruff. Why would he be so angry I was hugging his brother.

    “Winnifred. What a charming name for a lovely young lady. It’s my greatest delight to meet you. Er, Walter, help me out here, I seem to have forgotten how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other.” What a strange thing for a man to say to his brother.

    I’d been so excited to meet my uncle. He’d be taking me to Europe while Daddy took care of some business for the family, something about going away for a year or two. Oh, bother, Daddy never told me anything about business, and I was thrilled to be going to Europe with Uncle Jonathan.

    “Remember, the last family get together, at Uncle Mario’s house. You know, the one where we took the family pledge when we were younger, to always help Uncle Mario.” Dad squinted his eyes and frowned at Uncle Jonathan, that lovely new uncle of mine.


  15. @colin_d_smith
    200 words
    Title: Dinner Party

    I make a few adjustments to Randall’s collar, then step back.

    “How do I look?” he says.

    “Amazing!” I grin. “And tonight will be amazing for all of us. No-one will suspect a thing.”

    I spent the last six months preparing for this moment. Procuring the tickets was difficult enough, what with government bureaucracy and its hunger for papers and proofs. Very overwhelming, but not an insurmountable problem when you know people in the correct places.

    I even had to find someone to make our clothes. It baffles the mind how easily people will do things when you have sufficient money. No questions. Just put enough paper in the hand and they’ll do whatever you want. But the money is not important. It never was. And never will be.

    “It’s time,” says Robert standing in the doorway. “Are you sure we’ll pass?”

    I take the hand mirror from my purse and give my face a final inspection. I trace the curve of my chin, and try my smile one more time.

    “How can we not? Just act human and everything will be okay.”

    I check the pulsar bomb before closing my purse. Then we leave for Earth’s last dinner party.



    Brian S Creek
    210 words

    “Oh, James,” says Sophia. “I’ve had a wonderful time. When will I see you again?”

    “Well, how about we drive out to the country this weekend?”

    Sophia smiles as James opens the apartment door for her to leave. A plump, middle aged man stands waiting.

    “Professor Banter,” says James. “Long time, no see.”

    “Mr Park, I’m here to ask for your assistance. There is an imminent threat to our great city.”

    “No dice, Professor. I don’t do that anymore.”

    “What’s he talking about, James.”

    “Nothing, Sophia. He’s talking crazy and about to leave.”

    “Ganesh and Lt. Liberty are standing ready over at Central Park. I’m joining them now.”

    “Well, I wish you good luck.”

    “We could really do with the Mighty Man of Steel by our side.”

    “War’s over, Professor. I’m not that guy anymore.”

    Banter sighs as he turns to leave.

    “Out of interest, Professor,” says James. “Who’s this week’s villain?”

    Banter stops in the doorway. “Our greatest nemesis has returned. He left Russia this morning and has crossed the Atlantic with an army of mechanical men.”

    “Killer Kremlin is coming here, to New York City? I owe that man a right hook full of justice.”

    “My hero,” says Sophia.

    “Let me suit up, my old friend. Retributioners unite!”


  17. The Game
    205 words

    When Uncle said he was coming over with a surprise I never imagined he meant this! He has always been an eccentric fellow, but this? This is ridiculous. I have no room in my life for a bride. I am much too busy running his empire. That is what I was raised to do!

    Uncle is like a father to me. I have done everything he asked, but marriage? After what it did to him? How can he say love is still worth it after that woman utterly destroyed him? I can’t even fathom the idea. And now to push this poor young lady into my arms.

    What’s his game? This can’t be about this will nonsense. He can’t have been serious about taking me out of his will if I don’t marry. I have no need to continue the legacy. That’s what the company board is for. He loves me more than his own sons, for crying out loud! I’m just going to have to escort this young woman out and give my uncle a piece of my mind.

    Though she does have a lovey name. And she does have a certain appeal. Lovely eyes, pretty hair and well educated.

    What was I doing?


  18. Couldn’t, Wouldn’t, Shouldn’t. Did.
    A.J. Walker

    “Please don’t do it.”

    “Do what, man?”

    “You know. Just don’t.”

    “Hey, a man needs a hobby. And a woman needs a man.”

    “Please, Neanderthal.”

    “Look, I’m God’s Gift. Look at me. Suave. Sophisticated. Clever. Got all the right bits. Fully functioning too.”

    “Stop it.”

    “Well hey. I’m not going to sit in a do a Su Doku or write some flash fiction nonsense. I’m getting out there. Doing stuff. And Marlene – well I’ve just about etched the bedpost.”

    “Oh you are so classy man. By that I mean you are not.”

    “Just jealous, aren’t you? I’m getting through all the ladies with minimal fuss, a little planning and nudging along the way. A simple hobby.”

    “Good use of your genius.”

    “Exactly. Just doing what the big man wants us to do. And in this case Marlene.”

    “Please don’t. She’s really nice. Doesn’t deserve what you’ll do to her.”


    “No, I mean emotionally you dolt.”

    “Look I sent her flowers today. That’ll seal it if I’m reading it right; and let’s face it I’m never wrong am I?”

    “Rarely wrong but very wrong I’d say.”

    “The door. That’ll be Marlene. Do me a favour while I brush my eyebrows.”

    “Oh Lord!”

    “Marlene. What a surprise. What lovely flowers.”

    (209 words)



  19. Word Count excluding Title – 210


    Enveloped in darkness I’m drowning in shadows embrace. Avoiding mirrors bitterness etched in my face. A black curl in my sheets grabs my attention, a conquest, I’m messing. Would of being back in the day, I’d in her scent lay. Now it’s the dogs, sleeping like logs. Smiling sardonically, pity, what used to stand and open the door now stares at the floor.

    The curl carries me to yesteryear, to a face I hold dear. My fountain of youth stopped me from being a brute. Kept demons at bay from her I never let my mind stray. Now she’s gone I chase darker days, drug induced, in a haze. No areas of grey just black or white hiding from the light.

    She’d have hated me like this, accused me of taking the piss. Today I’ll cut, for that moment, memory I shut. Too cowardly to end it all but I like watching blood fall. She died running from me, escaping her vision of me, wrapped around our friend, nearing the end. Torturing myself daily, memories haunt gaily. The car flung her into the air blood matted her hair.

    Hopefully she’s forgiven me, I’ll never know so live in misery. I am forever bound, searching for relief never to be found.


  20. Hanging Onto The Past
    210 Words

    Lillian hobbled up the stairs, urging her old bones to move. She had to hurry. Jessica would arrive soon. Lillian heaved into the attic.

    Dust tickled her nose. Disintegrating boxes rose in teetering stacks. She peered through the filtered light at the dates listed on the boxes in her sister’s cursive. Lillian searched for 1934 to 1944—at the bottom, of course. It took all her strength to get it free.

    “Aunty?” Jessica’s high-heels snapped through the foyer below.

    Lillian’s hands trembled, flicking through the old photographs. Jessica must never see the photograph. She wouldn’t understand; it would make her so angry. Even so, Lillian couldn’t bear to let it go.

    There it was.

    Lillian gazed at her own young face. In the picture, she was embracing Jessica’s father, Herb, with raw adoration in her gaze. How could a simple photograph so easily expose one’s deepest secret?

    Tears spiked Lillian’s eyes. Sixty years made no difference to the heart.

    Jessica clacked into the attic. “Aunty? What do you have there?”

    “Nothing.” Lillian stuffed the photograph down her dress.

    “Pictures?” Jessica said, flipping through a few. “Oh, look. It’s Mom and Dad. God, how they loved each other.”

    “Yes, they did,” Lillian said, trying to keep the bitterness from her voice.


  21. Plague
    204 words

    It started with Margaret dying.

    I’ll always remember her with her arms around Edmond’s neck, and that look of love on her face. Edmond was the Prime Minister elected when we touched down on New Earth. She was young, only thirty when it happened.

    I was staying late at the lab, dissecting another dead patient, trying desperately to cure this plague. It’s a wonder I never caught it myself. Edmond radioed in, screaming Margaret’s name. I hurried to his place but didn’t get there before the police. They’d taped everything off. Margaret had been murdered. Someone had got it into their head that Edmond was to blame for the new world’s troubles and they’d punished him for it.

    Panic spreads. Edmond’s wife was the first but not the last. They caught the woman who killed Margaret and they punished her, but she became a martyr. Some fought for Edmond, some fought for his opposition, and thousands of others died from the plague.

    That was how the world got divided.

    We eventually found a cure for the plague, but nothing can fix the human condition. It’s been a hundred years and I might live a hundred more and never see the end of the war.


  22. Let Me Show You Lonely

    Lonely is standing at the kitchen sink, wearing gloves of soap suds and not knowing what to say, while the words of a minor argument hang in the air.

    As your apologetic husband embraces you from behind, wrapping an arm around your waist and one about your neck, lonely is the moment when your body remembers. You feel the hands of another man wrapped around your much younger neck, squeezing until your body falls limp and you wish you’d told your mom where you’d be.

    You cry out, unable to hide your panic. Your sweet, gentle husband drops his arms and backs away, saying, “I just wanted to hug you.”

    Lonely is walking into the den so the kids won’t see you crumble. When the waves of panic threaten to drown you, you call out to your husband. He doesn’t answer. Your wide-eyed daughter comes in to see what’s wrong, then runs to the kitchen, saying, “Daddy, Mommy needs you.”

    Lonely is when he finally comes, but only stands in the doorway, unwilling to look at you, and says, “I just want a normal life. I want to be able to touch my wife.”

    Lonely is realizing, then, how repulsive your scars are and putting the mask back on.

    210 words


  23. Haunted

    She heard a rustling sound from the closet while she sat at her dressing table.
    She stood and opened the closet door and saw the silhouette of a man, the whites of his eyes catching the light from the bedroom.
    She screamed and ran downstairs to her husband.
    He ran upstairs, opened the closet door and proclaimed, “There’s no one in here.”
    She could still see the eyes. One winked. She fled downstairs.

    She awoke in the night to find a man standing over her.
    She screamed.
    “What, what?” her husband shouted, startled.
    “The man, THE MAN,” she yelled.
    “What the hell are you talking about?” he yelled back.
    She began to cry and writhe under the blankets.
    “Why don’t you see him?” she wailed.

    She would see the man standing outside their front window staring at her. He would appear in their kitchen, glowering and silent.
    She couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t eat.
    Her husband finally had her committed.
    How could he not? With her shrieking at invisible men. Even she agreed it was a good idea.

    “Thanks, Fred, you’ve been a real pal playing the ghoul. Hard not to crack up sometimes when I’d be staring at you, pretending to see nothin. This’ll work out better than any divorce.”

    210 words


  24. Inner Girl vs. Outer Woman
    (210 words)

    I am my own worst enemy.

    The outer me femme fatale fatal, battling perfectly capped teeth and polished nine-inch nails with the inner geek-nerd of my little girl self.

    But I’m driven to satisfy the dictates a fickle fashion-conscious society mandates. Commute to high-end career in budget-busting macho car wearing haute-coutured designs teetering on skyscraper stilettos, while wanting to be home writing flash fiction in my bathrobe.

    Starving for greasy satisfying burger, fries and a shake as I nibble anemic tidbits unfit for a bird. Dragging to the gym at unholy hours for spinning class like some treadmill-trapped hamster – missing cuddly warm sheets, and my former disdain for creeping black digits on the bathroom scale.

    Popping stress countering pills to prop up my success story smile-frozen-in-place image escorted by a succession of eye-candy dilettantes. More often, I find I’m wishing for home, hearth, husband, and half-a-dozen babies behind a white picket fence.

    Jet-setting to exotic locales with another wealthy bachelor of the month, all the while longing to run footloose through the meadows of my youth once more, with Puff the Magic Dragon.

    I hate hiding the real me. I hate lying to myself. I should have chosen between my two suitors long ago.

    I am my own worst enemy.


  25. Title: Man v. Man
    210 Words

    “Daddy said yes!” She throws her arms around my neck, reaching for a kiss but I plant my hand on her waist to still the movement; I will not kiss a gal in front of her father.

    As it is, his eyes are watching the shrinking space between us. “Thank you, sir.”

    He huffs. “I didn’t do this for you.”

    “Of course, sir.”

    I step back so my body separates from his daughter’s. I like Lucy, but I don’t want a shotgun in my face and if she was my daughter, the weapon would already be loaded. Possibly, hidden somewhere in this room.

    “I’ll go get my coat.” Lucy presses in again and I grit my teeth as her lips brush the flesh of my ear. “Be right back.”

    Cool air replaces her warm body. Her father watched the entire interaction. “My girl knows what she wants.”

    I nod, unsure.

    “I don’t want to hear about you two at Necker’s Point.”

    My face warms. “Never, sir.”

    The man grunts. “I was a lad not that long ago. I know –“


    Lucy comes back into the room, kisses her father’s cheek. His hard eyes hold mine, like he can see every night I spent fantasized about his daughter.

    “Let’s go.”


  26. Bobby bursts into the room breathless. “Sam! The jury have reached a verdict. They’re coming back into the courtroom.”

    Sam looks up from his desk. “That was fast.”

    Maybelline turns from the window. “What does that mean? That’s good, right?”

    Sam frowns. “Not sure. Guess we’ll find out.”

    Maybelline throws her arms around Sam. “He’s innocent, right? They’ll find him innocent? I know you won, Sam, I just know it. He’ll go free, and then I can finally marry him. That’s right, isn’t it?”

    Sam takes Maybelline’s hands from his shoulders. Her hands are small, light.

    “He’s a good man,” Sam says.

    “You’re the best, Sam,” Maybelline says. “I just know you won this one. I have faith in you.”

    “We’ll see, May,” Sam says softly. He takes in her brown eyes for the last time. The light hits her curly hair. Like it did in first grade.

    May straightens her hat. She must look her best for the verdict, the photos on the courthouse steps, headlines blaring about her impending nuptials. She smoothes her skirt, picks up her purse from the desk. “Here we go,” she says, and walks out.

    Sam looks after her, then glances at Bobby, who looks down.


  27. Red Handed
    205 words

    “Norman! Norman? Norman – whaddaya think you’re doing, Norman?”

    Norman was, in fact, and at this very moment, in a rather compromising position with a woman who’s ring finger held a token decidedly NOT Norman’s…and it was very clear what Norman was, exactly, doing…

    Equally clear was just how much the woman of the moment was enjoying this singular moment in time.

    “Hey there, Alphie-boy, I’m just doing my bit to promote public transportation…”

    It wasn’t the words, so much as the huge, shit-eating grin plastered across Norman’s narrow face, which instilled the purple-y/red tinge now crawling across Alphonso’s normally florid countenance – that caused the tendons in Alphonso’s neck to stand at stiff attention as his teeth creaked alarmingly against each other.

    “Norman – this isn’t your wife, Norman. You wanna know how I know this, Norman? You ain’t married, Norman – that’s how I know this ain’t your wife, Norman. And whaddaya mean; ‘public transportation???’”

    How Alphonso could get these words out between stiff lips and a clenched jaw remains a mystery to this day.

    “She wants more than the moon, Alphie-boy – I’m taking her on a tour of all the stars in the night sky…”

    They still haven’t found the bodies…


  28. Bathed in Pixels

    The images on the screen cut the darkness with a splash of glowing love. His arm is draped around her shoulder like a muscular shawl. Her face, still captivating, roars with a feline happiness. The twenty comments and thirty-six likes reveal their popularity, their coupling accepted. Lauded. If I’m missed, it’s obscured by the flash of white pouring out of her mouth. Further scrolling is required.

    We were a pack once. She was mine and he was just our friend. We met on the dirt diamond as teens. He was the slugger, a wunderkind who obliterated baseballs with a violent, tornadic swing. “Chicks dig the long ball,” he’d always say with a wink. Jennifer would lounge on the bleachers, her designer sunglasses concealing the prey ensnared in her glance. Later, we’d get wasted in my basement. Billy would toss his charm around like handsome confetti. Jennifer’s uncovered eyes fluttered when he spoke, a flirtatious gyration of blue deception. A foreshadowing.

    They’re going to Miami next week. “Sand, salsa dancing, and mojitos,” she posted.

    She hasn’t blocked me yet. Maybe she’s a sadist and wants me to feel the burn. Or maybe she knows I’m a masochist, that I welcome the burn. Either way, Billy was right about the long ball.

    210 words.


  29. Secrets
    (209 words)

    The secrets spill; their droplets shower across the pavement into the grooves on fractured concrete. Winding out from their source, they gather impetus rushing at picket fences, crashing against grey houses, smashing against windows barely veiled by twitching curtains.

    She tried to catch them, keep them safe from prying eyes, but they slipped through her small fingers- too tricky to handle. Too slippery.
    She spins into nausea, unable to steady the world. She drifts with no place to anchor. She doesn’t feel the sting of skinned knees, or try retrieve the ball that escaped up the alleyway. She’s thinking of the shadows in her father’s eyes…
    the ones that appear when her mother laughs longer than anyone else… or drinks wine in the afternoons… or collects the mail in her negligee… or tells him ‘Let the damn neighbours talk; they’re all as dull as you!’ The ones that form into tear shapes before he makes his excuse… ‘For a man!’

    Her small hands reach for crumbling wall; she looks again along the open mouth of the alleyway to see her mother kissing the tender lips of a young man whose complexion is flushed pillar-box red.

    And into her own eyes the watery shadows creep.



  30. Thonocorp Fiscal Year-End Bash
    207 words

    When the office party went on lockdown (earthquake, riots), most people were already drunk. Ida, I saw, went directly into Marcel’s arms like she’d been waiting all night for a crisis. Half of the crepe-papered cafeteria had collapsed like a lung, and the R&D department was modifying the rolling bar into a battering ram. No one remembered for sure, but we though the interns might be under the rubble.

    Marcel just stood there, of course, kissing Ida from IT. I’d never seen them even talk before. Ida and I pretty much built the whole company intranet together.

    An associate VP, Marcel didn’t rank high enough that people were looking to him for leadership, and he sure didn’t have any useful skills, like the maintenance team, who was busy fixing a gas leak. Middle management is a great place to ride out a catastrophe.

    My department (marketing) had volunteered to patrol the perimeter. We had no weapons but I held a chafing dish lid in front of me as a shield. There was screaming out there, and gunfire. But my eyes, floating on vodka, kept returning like a compass to Marcel and Ida’s magnetic north.

    That’s how they made it past me. That’s what you wanted to know.


  31. It Happened in Dead Squirrel Creek
    195 words

    Johnny shot Miguel, shot him stone dead. One bullet to the gut, another to the head. Marsha loved Johnny, but she loved Miguel more. When Johnny did his deed she showed him the door.
    They buried Miguel up on boot hill, Marsha wore mourning bride’s black though by law and scripture she was never his. Never felt his warm caress, the tickle of his Zapata mustache, and now she never would.
    Dead Squirrel Creek quietened down. Main Street, all thirteen buildings, pulled up the shutters and invited the ranchers from all around.
    Marsha put away her unearned widow’s garb. She ran the saloon, Dead Squirrel Bar. Downstairs there was drinking, and eating, and singing, oft-times a table or two of cards. Upstairs were more intimate things, but only for paying guests. When the steers were driven the money flowed on both floors. Marsha payed her bills early, and got a good rate of interest at the bank.
    She retired at forty-five, sold a year before the iron-horse went to a Red Cattle, the next town over, and killed Dead Squirrel Creek. She searched for Johnny, fond him Amarillo way. She’d forgiven him.



  32. It’s never too late for love
    209 words

    “It’s never too late for love,” Mrs. Martin said, speaking from experience. After her husband Ralph died, she met her new husband Donald at the dry cleaners. She was getting the zipper on her bag repaired. He was dropping off some shirts. They started talking about the weather.

    Mrs. Martin’s Lonely Hearts Club met on Thursday evenings. There was music and dancing, card games, wine and cocktails. Mrs. Martin flitted from person to person, like a butterfly among flowers. No one, no matter how eccentric, was left to languish alone by the potted palm. No one was left out.

    When she saw him standing in the doorway, she rushed right over to meet him. “Oh Ralph, how good to see you!”

    “It’s good to see you, too, my dear. ” Ralph stood awkwardly in her welcoming embrace.

    “If I may ask, what are you doing here?” Donald looked aghast.

    “Sometimes it gets lonely up there,” Ralph explained.

    “Well, you can’t just barge in like this,” Donald said. “I mean, well, you’re deceased.”

    “Nonsense,” Mrs. Martin said. “Why should that make a difference. Oh, but where are my manners, let me introduce you. Ralph, meet my husband, Donald. Donald, meet my husband Ralph.”

    They shook hands, as she beamed between them.


  33. How Many Calories Are In Revenge?
    by Bill Bibo Jr (209 words)

    Dr Philipe Montagne was all that Fred was not. He was tall, thin, and wore a tailored suit remarkably well. When he entered a room his personality filled every corner forcing any portion left of Fred’s to go fleeing for safety in another room. It’s no wonder that everyone loved him. He had everything going for him even Betty, Fred’s wife.

    But there was one thing that Fred did have in common with Dr Montagne. In truth neither of them was a doctor.

    In the breast pocket of Fred’s jacket was the report from a private investigator. Dr Philipe Montagne had been born Doug Mathis from Peoria, IL and the closest he had ever been to a hospital was in the ER after a failed robbery attempt some twenty-five years ago. Now he toured the country selling his theory of happiness, common sense hidden in a blizzard of meaningless babble.

    Fred had come tonight to expose Montagne, to win his wife back, to restore his life to normalcy. But standing there he realized there were other ways to be happy

    Removing the report he laid it on the table in the foyer. He took three of the fancy cakes, placed them in his pocket, and walked out the door.


  34. @USNessie
    word count 196

    The Bride

    Giorgio couldn’t gauge his client’s response from the man’s features. He looked appalled, but then again, he always did. His blushing bride—not the prettiest Giorgio could come up with, but the most eager—had her arms around his neck, instantly in love.

    “Just sign here,” Giorgio said, shoving the data pad at him. The man hesitated. “Er…you know, there’s no refunds, right?”

    His client looked even more appalled than usual for a moment, then pulled his new bride close to him, protectively. That was a good sign. He wasn’t sure he’d got the personality right.

    The client signed the pad with one hand, then leaned over and lifted his bride off the floor, slinging her over one shoulder. “Thanks,” he said. “That will be all.”

    “Oh!” the bride exclaimed. “My, aren’t you strong! We’re going to be so happy together. I have this wonderful recipe for rib roast I just know you’ll love…”

    Giorgio watched the happy—or something—couple as they disappeared behind the closed door. There was neither bot nor butler to show him out, but the lights turned off in an obvious indication that it was time to go.

    He did so.


  35. Sean Daly
    Word count: 190

    I Smell Trouble

    So what’s with this dame anyways? She comes in without an appointment and says she needs to use the phone. She asks for a cigarette. Then stays a while. She’s easy on the eyes so we both sit back and listen. She’s dressed like a real lady, says her man’s missing and she needs our services. Says he’s been acting funny lately, says there’s trouble brewing down at the office and then he goes missing. She wants us to find him. She starts crying first. We’re good private eyes but we need some clues. Where does he normally hang out? Does he have enemies? She stops crying pretty quickly. I suspect this dame ain’t on the up and up. Maybe she knocked him off and it’s all a front?
    I say,
    “I don’t think we can help you, mam.”
    You say
    “Hold on, let’s hear her out, first.”
    She throws her arms around you. I smell trouble. She tells us she doesn’t have any money either. I tell her to scram. You hold your hands out not knowing what to do. You can’t take your eyes off her pretty face.


  36. In Arthropods We Trust
    207 words

    Scorpions dripped down the wall, arthropods capable of delivering a powerful sting, not enough to kill, but guaranteed agony. Javier watched them fall, pushed by something unseen.
    “It wont work,” he shouted.
    The response was a chuckle from speakers in the ceiling, and the scorpions fell faster, pushed harder. Those on the floor scuttled and scampered around the floor, tails raised and stingers ready.
    Javier licked his lips, and flexed against the bonds again. They still refused to give.
    “You are quite secure. I’d think about what you need to tell me.”
    “I’m telling you nothing,” Javier shouted. “Nothing!”
    The light went out. A moment of perfect blackness leaving Javier with the sound of his worried breath and the scuttle of the scorpion. A tube light hissed and shuddered to life, emitting black light. The floor and wall sprang back to life with scurrying flourescence.
    Javier fought the panic, the fear, the desperation. It welled in him, rising from the bare feet secured so that he could raise them no more than a millimeter. Around his groin it became a primal drive which drove through him like an emetic, sweeping everything before it.
    “I’ll tell you!” His scream echoed on the concrete walls.
    “I know you will.”



  37. She didn’t like Jacques and Cousteau very much. Brothers from idealistic, hovering parents, the men were obsessive and narcissistic. They’d competed for her for years. Jacques, a top physicist, whisked her off to exotic places to encounter scientific wonders, while Cousteau, a politician, escorted her to philanthropic balls. There was regular tension between the men on her account.

    Oddly, such endearment was fused with a general aura of disdain. They mocked her passion for ethnic cuisine. They condescended her poetry and patronized her philosophical assertions. Many times their insensitivities caused her to rail against them.

    However, whenever she’d contemplated cutting ties, they’d do something sweet and she’d relent with hugs and forgiving smiles.

    Her father worsened her conundrum by passing when she was in her early teens and naming them co-guardians of the estate. This made her situation so much harder, because now she was beholden to men she had no desire to love. She’d mentally toyed with online dating, but could imagine what men of their influence and abilities would do with that.

    Leaving without her inheritance, however, would mean she couldn’t pursue her dream of owning a pay-it-forward coffee shop where spirit and soul alike were fed with fanciful feasts and walls covered with works of aspiring authors.


  38. Blood and Oil
    (210 words)

    Ruby’s half of two worlds. A cyborg. I thought her choice would be easy. She wants to be human again… that’s what I am. And yet, here I stand, poised over an ancient battleground, pointing a sawed-off laser at a robot.

    It’s almost noon … three minutes left.

    Sweat trickles down my neck, soaking my shirt. My mouth is hot and dry. If this godforsaken clock would just strike. Two minutes.

    I glance at Ruby. She’s still human, in the face. Her eyes are Moroccan blue, her lips ruby red. She must love me to stare at me like that: eyes wide, skin paled, clasping her hands to her bosom … yes, she must love me.

    The robot never moves, just aims that pistol at me. His eyes are steel. His chest filled with cold computer chips and tangled wiring.

    One minute. The second-hand glides smoothly from one to two to three. I adjust my stance and ready my aim. The second-hand charges past six. I glance at Ruby. Tears stain her cheeks. The second-hand kisses nine. My finger flexes against the trigger. The second-hand teases twelve.

    Ruby crashes into me as gunfire echoes off the nearby trees. I catch her as she falls, blood and oil staining my hands.

    By Valerie Brown


  39. Husband and Wiles
    209 words

    Bertie chuckled as Ernest once again implored him to stop his gallivanting ways.
    “My dearest Ernest, life would be too dull!”
    “But what about Martha?”
    “That is the regrettable bit,” conceded Bertie, “but I wouldn’t be able to love her so, if I was bored.”
    Ernest despaired. How could anyone be bored having Martha? Had Bertie not proposed so preposterously soon, she’d have been Ernest’s wife with the devotion she deserved.
    Then Martha entered the drawing room, greeting Ernest briefly as she danced by him to hug her husband.
    “Are you two chaps about to go out? I was wondering if you might by chance be passing the jewellers I mentioned recently!”
    “We may go that way, my darling!” Bertie teased.
    “Actually, I’m just on my way home,” Ernest piped up. He wouldn’t be his erring friend’s alibi this time.
    “I do like Ernest!” Martha declared, when he’d gone.
    “Not Ernest!” Bertie said firmly.
    “Oh do let me play with him, darling!” she beseeched, “It would be adorable fun!”
    “You would hurt him more than you could know.”
    Martha feigned a sulky face.
    “Then I shall have to find someone not quite so sensitive to amuse me!”
    “Yes, you should,” said Bertie, quietly, quelling again his well concealed woe.


  40. The Devil’s Music Box

    207 words


    There is a music that plays at the midnight hour. It filters through unguarded minds, pulls them up from the depths and drags somnambulant souls to a dimly-lit ballroom. There they spin in a dervish waltz until dawn’s excuse-me peeps in through the curtains and night releases its puppets, returning them to beds where they wake, exhausted and unaware.

    Sometimes though, eyes open and the knowledge of their nocturnal ballet whispers across memory, carrying it into the daylight.

    Rowena was one such. She found her eyes no longer focussed on her husband and the guilt ate at her. All she wanted to do was hear that music again.

    “Is there someone else?” he’d asked.



    She hadn’t answered, couldn’t answer. Laughter. Not Raymond. Who?

    But they had a guest that evening. They had to keep up appearances.

    Rowena heard the music as soon as she saw him. Unable to control herself, she found herself gliding, spinning, dancing across the floor into his arms. But his eyes had not been opened. He did not know her. And now, neither did her husband.

    That malicious laugh again.

    Rowena’s dance had finally stopped. The Devil’s music box had new tunes to play. It was how he slept at night.


  41. @stellakateT
    204 words

    New Money

    What in the Great Gatsby scheme of things does Milady think she’s doing? She’s never been the same since she’s taken to reading literature! He’s so haughty and arrogant. What did The Times say this morning about him, richest man this side of the Atlantic? He’s just a vulgar American with no class. Milady is destined to marry a Duke or even an Earl. I’ll be their driver, butler, anything, so I can stay close to her. Her smile lights my life. One word from her can heal or wound my heart.

    Her Grandfather rode out with the original Maharajah of Juniper. Not sure that’s the right pronunciation of the God forsaken area of the Himalayas where my Lady was conceived. I promised her dead father I would protect and follow her to the ends of the world. She’d be flogging me now if she heard me telling you any of this.

    Clenching my fist I feel the urge to punch him straight between the eyes but the Queensberry Rules are ringing in my ears. Never strike out in anger! He’s booked on the maiden voyage of the Titanic to New York City. Milady has promised to wave him goodbye. I’ll shed no tears.


  42. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 210

    The Ides of Márciusi

    High School brings enough insecurity without your social studies teacher screwing your girlfriend. Okay, she isn’t my girl (yet) and it’s closer to flirting than screwing. But every senior in this prison-turned-school knows Scarlett’s mine. Bastard.

    They’d hired Mr. Hayes straight outa college ‘cause we’re in the middle of “Where’s that?” Idaho. His coifed hair and dimpled smile are probably on his resume. Toad-shaped secretaries and prepubescent virgins sigh when he interjects Hungarian into conversations. He’s too good to just use English like normal people.

    Mr. Hayes is obsessed with Hungarian filmography. Today he has us watching “Márciusi Mese”. All 66 minutes. It’d be a nice break from his straight lecture routine ‘cept I know it’s his excuse to sit next to Scar and whisper dirty nothings in her ear. God, I hate this guy.

    The film isn’t bad. The main actor looks like the love child of Sheldon Cooper and Dracula. What’s the female lead wearing? A plaid shirt under a dress? Now they’re fighting. Only they keep shouting “macaroni,” so it’s hard to take them seriously.

    Scarlett titters. He’s making the move. Anger boils under my skin.

    Fun fact: Hungarian sounds like mice drowning in champagne. Same noise Mr. Hayes made when my foot found his acorns.


  43. Title: Society
    Words: 209

    Your smile was full of expectation. You put your arm on my shoulder and leaned into me, ruffling my black suit. Your charming ways, porcelain skin, short bouncy hair – were tickets into any man’s heart. I was lucky to know you, only because you introduced me to him.

    Your brother, Paul, stood behind you, just inside the doorway. His awkward ways, his blotched skin, bald chrome – were all overlooked by the opposite sex easily. But I was not of the opposite sex, and I found his goofy expression endearing and his slightly pudgy physique comforting and warm in the wee hours of the night.

    You and I had only been married one month when Paul and I experimented with our true feelings. You and I were socially married, as husband and wife. Paul and I were privately in love. I kissed your cold salty lips.

    “I have news, Jon! Let me just freshen up one minute,” you said and exited to the wash closet. I wrapped my arms around Paul and sunk into one of his sweet kisses.

    “It won’t be like this forever,” he whispered in my ear. I begrudgingly let him go as you re-entered.

    “What is it my dear,” I feigned politely to you.

    “I’m pregnant!”


  44. “A Brother’s Love”
    by Michael Seese
    208 words

    Frail hands flipped the page. A pause to remember, to reflect. Then a faint voice brought to life the characters in the faded photograph.

    “That’s me in the middle, of course,” Nikolett said. “I’m standing with your grandfather.”

    “Who’s that other man?” asked Anna, blue eyes brimming with a six-year-old’s curiosity.

    “That’s Papa’s brother, Patrik.”

    “Did I ever meet him?”

    “No. He died in the war.”

    “That’s sad.”

    “It is. But he was a brave, selfless man. The Germans conquered Magyarország without firing a shot, then set their evil plan in motion. I remember Patrik’s reaction when he first heard of the trains. Clouds formed in those beautiful eyes, which otherwise held the skies. He used his foreign business connections to spirit our people out of the country. The Nazis executed him. But not before he managed to save perhaps 1,000 lives.

    “He sounds like a hero. I wish I’d met him.”

    “As do I.”

    Nikolett secretly wished Anna were old enough to hear the full story of both brothers’ heroism. Some day she would be capable of understanding the kind of sacrifice not meant for the history books: that of allowing another man to further your bloodline, when you cannot.

    Some day, perhaps. But not this day.


  45. A meniscus of trust

    @geofflepard 203 words

    Daphne: ‘I’ll follow you to the ends of time, George darling.’ Not in a million years.
    George: ‘Marvellous. See you in Cairo.’ As if. South Africa more like.
    Harold: ‘Just cable when you arrive.’ Not that you’ll make it past Dover.
    George: ‘Thanks for this, old chap. You ok with the charade?’ No one will believe a queer like you is married
    Daphne: ‘Don’t tease him, George. We’ll be brilliant.’ If he thinks I’m letting him near me again…
    Harold: ‘Better scoot. Before anyone twigs.’ It’s already too late.
    George: ‘You will find out who leaked, won’t you?’ Like we don’t know.
    Daphne: ‘Do you have any idea?’ Has he rumbled me?
    George: ‘Come here, old thing. Don’t cry.’ It’s not like anyone believes you…
    Harold: ‘I’ll make sure they get what they deserve.’ I certainly will. Moscow will be generous.
    Daphne: ‘If you know, darling, do say.’ I don’t want anyone suspecting.
    George: ‘Harry will do the honours.’ You won’t know what’s hit you.
    Harold: ‘Do our best. Now off you go.’ I’m beginning to feel ill near you.
    Daphne: ‘Go.’ I need some air.
    George: ‘I… Who’s that?’
    Police: ‘Gentlemen, Madam, sorry to disturb this late.’ Got you, you traitorous threesome.

    Hope this makes sense – the characters thoughts were in italics until I cut and paste here and now they’ve gone back to normal. Dash it! No idea why.


  46. Timely Little Deliveries

    “Nick,” John says, hesitating, before walking into the room. Sara’s palms are outstretched to the dark haired man in front of her. “I gather you two have introduced yourselves?”

    Sara nods slowly, without speaking.

    “Do we have time?” John asks the other man. “Might we?” His eyes are fast on those of the gentleman opposite, who shakes his head.

    “You had that. Remember?” he says. “The terms were carefully set out.”

    John now shakes his head. “Sara,” he says.

    “The little lady knows,” Nick replies. “Certain details required explaining on our acquaintance.”

    “No,” John says. “You have what you want already. We shook on the bargaining.”

    “That we did,” Nick agrees, shrugging. “Though my agreement is always less than gentlemanly, you’ll concede. There’s certainly room for one more – and again, after that.”

    “No,” John says. “I’ll trade.”

    “With what?” Nick queries, smiling. “Where will you steal from now to save yourself?”

    John shakes his head. “Her,” he says, simply.

    “You know, she tried to trade,” Nick tells him. “For your time, though she had none owing. No leverage left, given you ignored the origins of your – ahem – deliveries. It amused me somewhat in the syphoning. Now she knows. Now there’s little time left. To care. For either of you.”

    (210 words)



  47. @NJCrosskey

    All’s Fair
    (208 words)

    It’s Him or Me.

    It was always going to come down to this. It’s been brewing, silently, like a summer storm. Ever since Peter started drinking again.

    She deserves better than him, and she knows it. She’s got class. She’s not the kind of woman you can criticise in public and expect to keep favour with.

    We both knew Peter’s days were numbered. So we turned on the charm. Bad form, some might say. I prefer to think of it as initiative.

    We both tried to show her we were everything Peter wasn’t. Everything she needed. He harped on about “connections”. I waxed lyrical about passion, and commitment.

    Now she’s finally kicked Peter to the kerb. The way ahead is clear – for one of us.

    She said she needed time to think. So, we did what any self-respecting gentlemen would do. We went to the bar.

    He raises his pint. “May the best man win.” He says, with a wink that suggests he’s talking about himself.

    My phone rings.

    He raises an eyebrow. He thinks she’s calling me first to give me the brush-off.

    Oh God. I think he’s right.


    “Harry,” she sounds happy. Doesn’t she realise she’s about to crush my- “Congratulations, Mr Deputy Prime Minister.”


  48. In the Playground of Time
    209 words

    I find her, Fourth Millennium, Ceres.

    It’s my first dash, and I’m totally out of place. I cover for both of us by claiming to be from an Earth re-enactment troupe.

    “Sloppy,” she quips. Wrinkles web around her smirk.

    My heart falters. I still recognize the rapscallion crayoning superheroes across my diagrams. Then, she vanishes.

    I catch up with her, First Millennium, Asia.

    She still doesn’t bother chameleon-ing. Appearing as Caucasian before the Silk Road is even a fragmented footpath.

    She laughs when I confront her. “I’m not ready to go home yet.”

    She’s been saying that for centuries.


    I double back to her initial dash, Second Millennium, Europe.

    I trade real-time years to befriend a director she’ll beguile. She doesn’t recognize me. I invite her to an evening cruise on the Danube. She gushes so enthusiastically Edgar relents.

    Lantern light crayons the waters. She snuggles in the crook of my arm as if for a bedtime story. I press a disk to her temple.

    She stiffens. “What are you doing?”

    The stream of our encounters starts to evaporate. Millennia she hasn’t experienced. “Gia.”

    Her real name startles her. “Daddy?” Fear pounces on her expression as she fails to activate her implant.

    “Game’s over.” It’s my turn to vanish.


  49. Emily Clayton
    208 words

    Choose Your Own Adventure, with Zoe

    Zoe walks into my 4th floor office like she owns the place. She sashays; she shimmies; she dances an Irish jig.

    “What’s gotten into you, Zozo?” I ask, knowing she’s deep in a scheme.

    Crazy; that’s how Zoe acts when she’s up to no good. Her hair glistens in sunlight that streaks across the floor like a rogue laser. She almost looks pretty. Like an angel … of destruction.

    Zoe prances across the floor, doing the two-step to an inaudible beat. “Hankie!” she squeals. “I’ve got the most delicious plan!”

    See? I told you she’s a schemer. She’s like a clockwork fox; take a look, and you’ll see those mechanical gears a grindin’. Like a churn squeezing out fresh pats of belladonna-laced butter, all her plans are rich, flavourful, and deadly. Such a sweet smile; too bad it masks disaster.

    “No, Zozo.” Two little words with the power to bring out the beast.

    “What do you mean, ‘no’?” Her tone rises with each word. “Hankie, you’re not playing fair!”

    By now she’s a spitting dragon; I duck out of firing range.

    “Okay, fine. What’s the plan?”

    She looks at me, eyes sparkling with delight. “We’re going to send my evil husband the last birthday present he’ll ever open.”


  50. Keeping it All Together
    204 words

    Of course I remember you. Like wind blasting my face. I death-gripped the handlebars, danger crawling up my knees into my stomach. Maddy’s shrieking laughter from the crossbar. Don’t fall! Don’t fall! The funny mouthwash smell that rolled off your panting breaths.

    Of course I remember you. Like sugar dissolving in my mouth. The cereals you doled out for dinner. The kind Mother never let us eat. The cotton-candy carnival hours for Maddy and I while you disappeared into the raucous laughter of the pub. The delirious slyness of shared secrets—a relief from the order that mother cultivated like her orchid garden.

    Of course Maddy forgives you, flings herself into your arms as if she’s still that ten-year-old you left behind. She thrust all the pain on Mother. I did too, until I stumbled upon Mother soddening the lace tablecloth with a sorrow she’d never let us see, a secret more terrifying than wobbling on a drunk’s handlebars. Five-year-old hands can’t salvage a wrecked heart.

    So forgive me if I don’t fling myself into your arms. Who’s Maddy going to blame when it’s down to her and you? Even at fifty, I don’t think I can pick up after another of your wreckages.


  51. Yesterday’s Colours  

    Yesterday is the colour of an old photograph. The first sign of your love is white clouds at the beginning of spring. A vermilion rose is my love for you. A peacock feather’s rainbow is the flowers and gifts I give you. Bright sunlight is our first kiss.

    Betrayal is the colour of soot on glass. The same soot that now taints all I see.  
    Fading love is cirrus cloud white turning into thunderstorm sky grey. Scarlet is the colour of my heartache. Hope for love to return is the colour of a candle flame. Gold and blue lightning is the colour of screamed words of anger. Goodbye is burning pitch; strangling words and tears alike in my throat. Silver is the knife of your words twisting inside me.    

    A silver knife stabbing.
    A stabbed heart crying.
    Red blood dripping.  

    Bruised skin purple is the colour of your new love. Sickly yellow-green bile is my anger and jealousy.  Maggots and rotted black teeth is his look of glee, knowing my hurt. The carmine red of dried ox blood is my despair. The last goodbye is a city’s polluted night sky.  

    Yesterday’s broken love is grainy photograph hidden in a drawer.    

    Words: 201
    @CarinMarais http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com


  52. Confessions

    I watch the love of my life cuddle up to someone else. I’ve done everything I can to be noticed, I’ve laughed at terrible jokes, pretended to share interests, I even endured the endless relationship drama, waiting patiently for my turn.

    I was sure my time was now. That last breakup was apocalyptic. Things were thrown, tears were shed, harsh words were spit into this world. I was there as the shoulder to cry on, the confidant to provide guidance through the darkest hours of the night. I’ve worked hard to earn my place, but I’m not happy here. I want more.

    It didn’t take long for the competition to show up. Nature abhors a vacuum. This one is even younger than the last. I can’t help but compare, my thinning mop to those long flowing locks, my crooked nose to the one carved from purest marble. Never have I detested someone so instantly. To hear my soulmate laughing with someone else is like acid poured into my heart. I won’t give up though, I have fought too long and hard to turn back now. I won’t let anything stop me, not her, not even the fact that he doesn’t love men that way. It’s time to confess my love.

    210 words


  53. Variable Resistor
    200 words, @pmcolt

    “Welcome home dear!” Edith kissed her husband on both cheeks, then adjusted her hat. “Now don’t forget about our eight o’clock reservations at Chez Maurice!”

    Richard unbuttoned his jacket and slumped into the recliner. “Just let me rest my feet for ten minutes,” he said as he slipped out of his loafers. Leaning his head back, he sighed. Ever since MARK arrived, Edith had been so energetic, so affectionate.

    For years, Richard had suffered under a bombardment of Edith’s complaints about his long hours and late nights at the office. The payoff came two weeks ago: MARK had cost him three months’ salary, but was the best early anniversary gift Richard had ever bought.

    The Mechanized Automaton and Robo-Keeper stood against the wall. The lanky android’s primary duties — cooking, cleaning, laundry — were finished, and now it was recharging its capacitors for tomorrow.

    “Come now, dear, we don’t want to be late.” Edith kissed him on the lips, then dragged him to his feet.

    Richard looked around the apartment, admiring how tidy it looked for a change. The apartment was clean, and Edith was finally happy. Money well spent.

    “Is there anything that ee-lectronic contraption can’t do?”

    Edith grinned. “No, dear.”


  54. Duel to the Death
    209 words

    “Hocus pocus!” commanded Zsombor the sorcerer.

    “Abracadabra!” demanded Vilmos the wizard.

    Their wills contested, focused on Dorika, who swayed between them.

    Vilmos, in his dark suit, longed for the old days when he would be permitted to kill his rival rather than having to prove his superiority by making a woman spellbound. He looked leeringly at the beautiful, if a trifle sharp-featured, Dorika. Still, there were compensations for being required to duel this way. He relished the coming moment when he told Zsombor what he was going to do to the wizard’s soon to be ex-lover.

    Zsombor, in his grey suit, prayed he won, for Dorika’s sake.

    Eventually, Dorika was drawn inexorably to Vilmos, her craving for him clearly stamped on her face.

    “Hah!” Vilmos shouted. “I am the stronger magician!”

    Before Vilmos could torture Zsombor with his plans for Dorika, he felt a sharp pain. Dorika’s fingernails were piercing him through his clothes. Zsombor drew back, not in fear, but to avoid the blood-spatter as Dorika assumed her true draconian form and began to consume the one who had commanded her to desire him completely.

    Zsombor, knowing that once a dragon begins to feed on humans, it would never stop, prepared his dragon-killing spell. “I’m sorry, my darling.”


  55. 209 words

    Bruno Loves Emily To Death

    “Boss,” says the boulder shaped man with the boulder shaped wit, “yous want I should escort Miss Emily to her home?”

    “No, Bruno. That will not be necessary.”

    “But boss–”

    “Pick her up in the morning.”

    Bruno hesitates, but leaves.

    As the door shuts, the drunk Miss Emily stretches her arms, spins in dizzying circles then promptly falls over as dizzy, spinning drunks do. On her way down, the corner of the snakewood coffee table pokes her sharply in the eye.

    The next morning Bruno arrives an hour early. He escorts a bruised Miss Emily out of the apartment. For twenty paces they walk in awkward silence.

    “He do that to you?” Bruno points a meaty finger at his right eye.

    Before Miss Emily can answer, Bruno charges back into the apartment pistol drawn. The boss, shrewd and paranoid, as bosses are, always stows a pistol within arm’s reach.

    Two shots ring out.

    Miss Emily runs to the open door. She gapes at the boss slumped over the kitchen island. At her feet Bruno sits, blood soaking through his lapels.

    “I’ve … loved you … since I first seent you”, gasps Bruno. “C—c–could yous … ever … love a guy like me?”

    “Aw hon, I don’t date the help.”


  56. Subplot

    Marcus slunk further into his seat, wishing the theater would just swallow him. His wife had insisted on seeing this film with him, but this was almost too much. Playing the part of the doting husband was hard enough as it was, but adding a foreign film with no subtitles, no dubbing and as near as he could tell the poorest plot available and he was in over his head.

    He did his best to follow along for Ilse’s sake, but the only Hungarian he knew was ‘Parprika’. With a sigh he switched his phone on and pulled out set of earphones, hoping the translation app was better than the mapping software.

    As it finished loading, someone kicked his seat, he turned and met the eyes of a very angry man.

    Marcus held his phone out to show the man what he was doing, but instead of listening, the man lunged at him and the fight was on.

    The fight lasted less than a minute and ended with the two of them being dragged out of the theater. Trying to regain his calm, Marcus pulled on his sleeves and met the man’s gaze.

    “Next week, It’s the opera… think you get me out of it?” he asked.

    The man smirked.

    210 words


  57. Sara Tranum
    209 words


    “Henry. Henry!” She stumbled forward, her heel catching on the carpet edge and sending her colliding against his frame.
    “Ethel, you’re drunk.” Henry’s thin frame stiffened as she hurtled against him. He lightly pressed her back into a standing position, his fingers recoiling from the fabric on her waist as she steadied herself.
    “Ethel,” William said sternly. “We need to leave, now.”
    The curled ends of her brown hair whipped across her shoulders as she turned to glare at her husband. “No, we don’t. You may go, but Henry has some questions to answer.”
    “No, he does not,” William replied sharply, stepping forward to grab her arm.
    Ethel evaluated his meaty fingers around her slender arm, then briefly held his stare before turning back to Henry. “I found the letters. How long has this been going on?”
    Henry blinked in surprise. “How long has what been going on? What’re you talking about, Ethel?”
    “Come now. The affair, Henry, what else?”
    “Ethel, I think you’re mistaken-“
    “No, no I’m not. See here,” with her free arm she retrieved one of the folded letters and held it out.
    “Ethel, that’s not my writing.”
    “I know only two men who write this way.”
    Henry looked at William, who just shook his head.


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