Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 24

HAAAAAAAAAAAPPY FRIDAY! After today, each of our valiant judging teams has just one more round of stories to judge! I can hardly believe how fast the top half of Year Three is going; makes one a bit dizzy, in point of fact. Or perhaps that’s the sleep deprivation? In any event, each team has done a marvelous job, and I hope you’ve stocked up on tissues in preparation for the next four weeks’ worth of DRAGON-LOVIN’ MADNESS!  That’s right: SENTIMENT ALERT! SENTIMENT ALERT! 

Ring of Fire! Have you submitted stories three times in May? Don’t forget to contact us (details here) so your name can go (or stay!) up on the Wall of Flame. And if you’ve got a minute, we invite you to pop over to gawk at the Wall, because WOW. Note: there’ll be a drawing at year’s end for prizes for all y’all cool RoF bearers. The more badges you’ve earned, the greater your chances at loot!


DC2Judging today is Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha. They want what all judges want, of course: namely, The Perfect Story. To accomplish such a thing, Pratibha suggests delving deep into the human mind; similarly, Sinéad adores complicated characters and dialogue, glorious dialogue (especially if tinged with bittersweet).    


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, your primary conflict must be “man vs nature” (not gender specific; see here for a description.) 



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

Victoria Falls. CC2.0 photo by Tee La Rosa.

Victoria Falls. CC2.0 photo by Tee La Rosa.

378 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 24

  1. Josh Bertetta
    204 Words

    He stood over mother and son as he did every night. She, her soft bronze skin caressed in the dim amber night-light, protecting him from the demons he fought against daily.

    He wanted to touch her, to glance her cheek with the backs of the fingers. But he fought, fought against his nature to reach out and touch.

    To reach out and touch, and be touched.

    He tried to love her as he knew how, but with a mouth full of clouds, he could never really tell her, he could never convince her of all the beauty she possessed no matter how much he pleaded with her to believe.

    His heart a butterfly’s wings touched by human hands, he did all he could to hold back the tremendous waterfall of sadness waiting, just waiting to break free and wash him, wash him away.
    Again, he fought against his nature and retired.

    Retired to his single bed and waited.


    Hoping someday soon she would cease fighting her own nature, and come to him, finally and at long last.

    He drew his turquoise Tree of Life bedspread from India over his flesh, his flesh, his flesh, a wilted rose petal dying just to be touched.


  2. @colin_d_smith
    200 words
    Title: “Revenge”

    Jathar stood at the edge of the canyon, taking the gentle spray from Carantha as she plunged into the depths on the opposite side. He raised his head, listening with the intensity of someone eavesdropping on a whispered conversation. Jathar then bowed his head and sat crossed legged, his hands palms-up on his knees.

    “I have heard you, O Mighty Carantha,” he said. His voice echoed over the canyon but was consumed by the water. “The Mighty Carantha has spoken. But there is no comfort in her words. There is no contrition. Only anger.”

    Jathar took a rope from inside his dirty tunic, gripped it in both hands, and pulled it taut.

    “With anger you have spoken, O Mighty Carantha. With anger I respond.”

    Jathar squeezed his eyes shut, holding the rope over his head. As he pulled it tighter, he felt a warm breeze from the canyon. The atmosphere became dense and muggy, the spray subsided. Carantha’s roar mellowed to a growl, then silence.

    Jathar breathed heavily, sweat soaking his clothes. At last he opened his eyes to see the empty rock face opposite.

    With a smile, he returned his son’s belt inside his tunic, got up, and left.


  3. Atalanta Rides Again
    207 words

    Lanta flings her helmet into the sea, shattering the moon’s watery trail under crimson fiberglass. The Pacific coils around her waist. Another man was taken: his motorcycle tangled in the shoals. Dark rocks jut like decayed teeth in boiling saliva. No one will find a body.

    The bluff rises impassively up to the fatal bend in the coastal highway. In the last five years, eight swaggering cycle boys challenged Lanta to race. Inevitably, they’d swerved too wide as Lanta sped tightly into the turn, rising on the saddle like a circus dancer. Eight racers sacrificed themselves to the deep. Had it been seven, all might’ve been forgiven.

    Tanner, his sun-kissed curls the color of golden apples. He and Lanta rode parallel into the turn, simultaneously swinging their booted-feet up to counterbalance their bikes. Then, he started to slide. Despite oracular restraint, she leapt toward him, swimming in the long air above the shore. Then I’m going too.

    But the waves spat her out whole.

    I’m done. Lanta’s reflection blurs into liquid shadow. Let the eternal depths feed themselves.

    She steers eastward into an unremarkable dawn. Iowa—where the largest body of water is a manmade square cut into a flat plain. The eternal depths could feed themselves.


  4. Tainted Love


    207 words


    It is the most difficult decision God has asked of me.


    The vote looms large. The information tumbles; a waterfall from both sides, an overwhelming stream of powerful rhetoric and God is used like a plaything. Yet neither side knows what God truly believes, how can they?


    As with Niagara Falls, the views are spilt and go their own way, divided by defensive borders. Yet we all know that Ireland will have to join afterwards, and somehow, merge united in the white-water swirl.


    No, they say. It is against nature.

    No, they say. The bible tells us it is wrong and unholy.

    No, they say. Only God can define marriage and the Church speaks for God.

    No, they say. No, they will always say.


    Yes, they say. It is nature that they follow, there is no choice. How can nature allow love that is tainted or unholy?

    Yes, they say. For to love is the greatest commandment.

    Yes, they say. The Church is in no position to speak for God; that right was lost.

    Yes, they say. For yes always wins, eventually.


    I genuflect before my Lord, hitching my cassock as I lower. I kneel in the empty church with my Rosary beads clutched in praying hands.


  5. Trial at Dragon Falls
    206 words

    Huang’s heart thudded in her chest. The roar of Dragon Falls filled the world, the very air smelt wet from the turbulent waters spray.
    She continued walking forward, counting steps under her breath. The rocky outcrop she walked over slick from moisture and her bare feet were cold.
    “One-thousand four hundred and thirty-seven.” The number was the beacon she’d been guided by and she stopped. Unable to resist, she edged her foot forward a little more, pointing her toes and pressing only wet air.
    She licked her lips, then started chanting. The incantation built in layers, forming a wall of sound which blocked out the thundering water. Huang’s chest reverberated with the strength of the words, she felt Dragon Falls tamed by her power, reduced to a trickling stream for the harm it could do her now.
    She stepped forward, walking through the air while intoning the final words of the spell. Huang turned left and right, feeling the water around her. She wanted to scream, to mock and curse all who’d said a blind person could never attain these skills. She permitted herself a smile, and decided she would no longer be Huang, Yellow. From now on she would be called Jinse, Golden.



  6. Why?

    I tried to catch her breath. I was the first to the top. Mother and my sisters were still making their way up the steep mountain, but I had run ahead so I could be the first to see.

    Now, at the summit, I turned her head towards the valley below. Our village was already completely submerged below ice and foaming water. On the opposite side of the valley a deluge cascaded over the cliff’s edge wearing away at the rocks I had climbed so often as a small child.

    The men from down south had told us that we needed to move, that the glacier was going to break and drain the lake’s waters into our valley. We had told them that this was our home and it would not harm us.

    Why should it? Why should our home for thousands of years turn on us because other people, far away, could not live at peace with their world? Why would these waters claim everything we know to enact revenge on the Southerners?

    I wiped my eyes with my sleeve as a barrage of water, rock, and ice buried the last of our valley.

    195 words


  7. The Second Flood

    Two days old,
    light, dark, the roar of sound.
    After a month,
    faces, the touch of skin
    warm bath water, and lullabies.

    Every day, the river of discovery,
    of sight, and sound and touch and taste
    cascaded with the newness of things, life eaten
    in spoonfuls-
    peas, oatmeal, carrots, rice and lamb and then
    the miracle of pudding, of scrambled eggs—
    the pinch of shoes, the itch of new sweaters,
    the buzz of flies.

    You waded into life with careful steps, and bumped
    into hard furniture, tickling grass, your father’s legs, the patient dog.
    The rain of things fell every day into your head, a waterfall
    of this and that and all the wide world had to offer up,
    the sound of bees, the smell of lavender, the taste of pumpkin pie
    the feeling of a cool stone floor, each step a story told beneath your toes.

    Each year the new became a steady stream, narrowing
    until some weeks the trickle came in coffee flavorings,
    the pictures that the television sent,
    those glowing creature from the ocean floor—
    the tang of new pills, the warm sting of chemotherapy.

    These final months, it all comes rushing like a cataract,
    the torrent of your life
    as death’s Niagra washes you away.


  8. The Smoke that Thunders

    They tell me a white man would make ten times, a hundred times more money. But they also say that no white man would be so stupid.

    The first time I rode the falls was for a bet. I was young and we were trying to outbrag each other. ’Twenty says you won’t.’

    I snatched the note and tried to heft the beer barrel. ‘Give me a hand, this is heavy!’ We drew a small crowd as we rolled the keg to the riverbank. Chatter almost drowned the rushing water, until the lid went on and they rolled me in.

    A little bob. The barrel began to spin, faster and faster until we hung in the air for an instant that lasted forever.

    I have nightmares about the drop. Needles of air through the knotholes. Stomach climbing out of my throat. Ears scream, heart bangs. This time I won’t make it; a rock is waiting. I see my children’s tear-streaked faces.

    The barrel punches down; so far, I am still alive. The bruises don’t show until later, and I climb out smiling.

    One day my luck will run out; but we need food. A diplomat is visiting, and they tell me that his children will be amused.

    208 words


  9. Do Not Go Gentle
    (208 words)

    The girls gripped each other’s hands while Mar addressed the villagers.
    ‘Man’s battle with nature is foolish. Nature is victorious…’

    Kim concentrated on the youngest of the girls. The last deed Kim could perform was to make this easier for Ain.
    ‘Ain, let this be our adventure,’ she said, her dry lips sticking to her teeth.
    Kim saw the other girls were already focused somewhere beyond the edge. They had gone on their journey. But Ain’s eyes were wild with a snarling, burning fear. The last moments of her young life should not be frayed and scorched in this way.

    ‘When we are Sent,’ Kim said. ‘Can you do something for me? Keep hold of my hand. We shall ride the waterfall together. We can shout. No, we should shout. Even laugh. We can be strong. There is one more moment to live for. There is!’
    Ain’s eyes flickered.

    ‘Nature makes us bend,’ said Mar. ‘We must yield. Our sacrifice today shows Nature our humility. Let us Send them!’

    The ropes untied, Kim and Ain spring at the rushing water.

    And Mar is wrong for the clouds split and the Earth shakes when Nature itself responds with reverence to the battle cry that rips from Ain’s small lungs.


  10. 209
    The Water Man

    He stared up at the waterfall. Water magic took extreme concentration, and sacred knowledge of the world and natural physics.
    The crowd around the top of the falls whooped and yelled in excitement, the TV cameras and news reporters jostling for the best view.
    The Water Man had been travelling the globe, performing miraculous and unsettling magic stunts on famous bodies of water. Thousands of people had seen him walk the Amazon river, lie flat on the Nile without sinking for five full days, even walk on his hands on the Atlantic.
    People who had been sceptical began to listen, to watch him with hungry eyes. Who was he?
    Today he would walk up the world’s tallest waterfall, after turning it to ice in the middle of summer. The crowd leaned as far as they dared, as he began.
    With a lightning crack, the rushing water froze solid. Faces full of amazement were beamed all over the world. He began to climb, without rope or spike. The molecules buoyed him upwards, and he rose swiftly in front of his public. As he let go to wave to them, his foot slipped and the ice instantly melted. With a wail, he disappeared into the foam, never to be seen again.


  11. @AvLaidlaw
    207 Words

    The Witch’s Promise

    “Slow down, Mum. You’re old. You could have a heart attack.”
    Anna doesn’t listen and jogs down the path to the waterfall. Forty-five, Sweetie. Too old for your father maybe. But not decrepit yet. She drops her backpack and sits down on the bank, panting. Her ankles hurt. Sweat drips from her face and soaks into her shirt. She stinks. Midges gorge on her blood and raise bloody welts on her skin. Not completely decrepit.
    The waterfall tumbles down the bluff, sparkling in the shafts of sunlight through the trees, and bubbles in the pool below. The Witch’s Cauldron. “The book said the old hag would turn beautiful in the water.”
    “Why can’t you read 50 Shades like everyone else?”
    Polly takes photographs. Anna takes off her boots. She watches her reflection ripple in the water. Yes. She unbuttons her shirt.
    Quickly now. She strips, her clothes heaped on the ground, and slips into the pool. The chill puckers her skin. She wades towards the waterfall, unsteady in the swirling water. Polly shouts “oh my God” but its distant in the gush of the waterfall. You’ll laugh later. Anna stands under the waterfall and the water cleanses the sweat and the blood from her skin.


  12. For the Victor the Breakfast of Champions
    A.J. Walker

    The wind was in one of its untamable moods jarring into Dan’s face, making him stand into it at an angle.

    “Damn you nature and your mardy ways!” Dan shouted into the wind, the words dissipating instantly into nothing.

    He looked into the ravine, watching the dark peaty water as it plunged past the steep rocky sides and swirled in the deep pool below the great waterfall. He’d be back tomorrow to tame it. The ravine would be at his mercy; if the wind would die down a bit.

    He stepped out the distance, clearing the path of branches and rocks. Seeing the jump in his mind; the bike gathering speed along the pristine track, the ravine thundering its welcome in watery white noise. Dan could do it.

    The next day he awoke after dreams of success. Every time he jumped it better, clearer and landed with nonchalance.

    He kept breakfast small, a little for energy but he didn’t need extra weight. Afterwards he’d eat the breakfast of champions.

    The moorland was peaceful, like another world as the wind had journeyed onwards.

    “Eat my speed sucker!” shouted Dan, peddling his Grifter like no-one had pedaled before.

    At the end of the track he launched himself high above Babbling Brook.

    (210 words)



  13. The Fall
    A.J. Walker

    It was the last item on Nathaniel’s bucket list. He’d flown over the Sahara in a glider, had breakfast with gorilla’s in Rwanda, he’d played five a side at the Nou Camp with Messi and Suarez, and cooked a meal on volcano – without pans.

    The falls were fearful and wondrous, frothing and boiling like a witches brew in a cauldron. The noise incessant, the mist providing permanent rainbows in the daylight. At night the rainbows took a rest but the thunder seemed to go up a notch.

    No-one was aware of how long his list was. They’d assumed it was twenty or maybe even fifty things. He’d not dissuaded them.

    It was barely a list. But time was tight. So five it was.

    Experience: he could buy it – if he didn’t tell the loan company of his ‘change in circumstances’.

    Time: he couldn’t buy it – no-one could.

    Two months: flying, gorillas, sport, geology, nature.

    Nathaniel looked out across the vista. It was the most wonderful sight he’d ever seen, a fitting finale. So here he was more flying, more geology. His flight would be brief and the geology would be to the side of him and in no time at all he’d be imprinted into it.

    And jump…

    (210 words)



  14. Rainbow’s Kiss

    We wait for the rainbow that rumour has it is Great Uncle Barnard. Drenched by spray, ears bursting from the volume of rage of the thundering water, we stand. We are a little earlier this year, Great Aunt Flo and I.

    Great Uncle Barnard always stravaiging after a challenge. Current flow, wind speed, moon phase, season – he scientifically planned his exploits. He conquered mountain peaks, marked the length of rivers, sailed all seven of the seas. He’d have gone for the blue black of space had it not been before his time.

    There are debates about the type, but all agree it was an aged malt barrel. Over the great falls Barnard went. The great falls had given nothing back, save a rainbow.

    Great Aunt Flo, every year – swearing the rainbow is her one true love. Maudlin and crotchety, she will wait all day for her Barnard to appear, only then blowing a kiss and happy to head home. For decades, an annual pilgrimage, passed down to me now.

    This year we are early, and when finally rainbow comes, I cast Great Aunt Flo’s ashes into the roiling water, blow a kiss.

    Next year I will stand alone.

    198 words


  15. OVER THE FALLS by E.F. Olsson
    207 words

    The river was flowing faster towards the falls. Clark was struggling to keep the boat straight. All Simon wanted was a good picture overlooking the waterfall and the area below – mom would love it.

    The currents picked up. The boat was out of Clark’s control. Simon could see the strain across his father’s face – something was wrong.

    “Are we going to be alright?” Simon asked.

    “Just fine. I just need to get us over to the shallow side.”

    “But what?”

    “It’s not letting me.”

    Water splashed over the side of the boat. It was too late, Clark knew it.

    “Listen to me. OK?” Simon nodded. His eyes wide and full of tears. “Plug your nose. Keep your eyes and mouth closed tight. Got it? You have a life-jacket on. You’ll be fine?”

    “But you’re not wearing one, dad?”

    The tip of the boat dropped. They plunged down. Simon and Clark held on as their gear fell from the boat and disappeared into the roaring waters below.

    Tourists swarmed at the bottom of the falls. The boat appeared capsized. Gear floated away. Simon popped up gasping for air.

    A man pulled him towards land. “Help is coming. Don’t worry.”

    Simon looked across the river: Clark was laying there.


  16. This was it. The ultimate thrill ride. The big rush. The moment he had been waiting for his whole life. He was ready to tame The Falls. He had endured blistering heat and gale force winds. He had sailed across thunderous seas and walked across fathomless desserts. But none of that compared to this. And now, as he stared fate in its watery, blurry, and ever changing face, he was scared for the first time. Maybe thrill seeking had gone too far. Maybe being an adrenaline junkie was just a joke.

    Maybe his dad was right.

    The spray of the falls had already soaked his clothes with the force of their powerful roar. They seemed to be calling him closer. Daring him to finish his quest.

    Mind made, he stripped down to nothing, to expose the beast within. He beat his chest and let out a mighty roar, only to be swallowed up by the louder sound of the waterfall. That only angered him more. He’d show that waterfall who was boss. No one would ever be master over him. And with a running start, he leapt over the edge and plunged down, down, down… and into the darkness below.

    200 words


  17. The End of the World
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    207 words

    This is it, the end of the world. I’ve trekked across deserts that sucked the life from your body and through jungles of deadly perils. I’ve endured, pain, injury and despair. All to prove them wrong. The earth we live on is flat not round. I have not returned to my start point, I have arrived here, where I can go no further. Beyond lies another world and perhaps another world beyond that. What wonders are there just out of reach? It’s tantalising and frustrating. My soul aches to return home, yet my heart yearns to know what lies across that narrow void. Not for fame, not for glory, just to know. What fabulous creatures, strange peoples are there that I’ll never see.

    ‘Hello,’ I shout, but my voice is carried down into the dark places by the roar of the ever rushing torrent. Perhaps, that is where the gods live, that space between worlds. If they do, they might hear me and answer my prayer. Or they might be angered by the audacity of a mere mortal in asking such a boon. But, I have not travelled as far as a man can to fear the unknown. I shall make my camp and await my fate.


  18. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 209

    The Lighthouse

    I stand at the precipice as the light flashes across the sweeping currents. Oceans of emptiness, misty ridges, and forests of oblivion blend into one conglomerate mass that shakes my inner core, shattering it—creeping cracks crawling through crumbling crevices.

    Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

    Mom, you left the door open last night. The whispers plague me. Doctor visits, the dreaded diagnoses. She’ll need a full-time caretaker, you know.

    I study the wrinkles that crease the back of my hand, the age spots that dot the surface. I do remember the whisper of cherubic lips on my cheek, pudgy fingers offering dandelion bouquets.

    I don’t understand why I can’t find my children. I search the panorama, but they’re hidden in the mists.

    Deep calls to deep…

    Only one thing remains constant—the light in the mists of oblivion. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

    I close my eyes and step over the precipice. Tumbling, flying, falling, I hit the emptiness, the ebb, the pull of current. The world says I am lost; I’ve forgotten and will be forgotten.

    I wipe the tears from my eyes and swim toward your light where home lies beyond.


  19. Word Count excluding title – 210


    Waterfalls of hate cascade his soul, his nature to blame the world for his troubles. It’s never anything to do with his actions or responses; he in his eyes is the perfect specimen of what a male should be. So this being fact in his mind, who on earth could she have run away with? There’s no-one out there better suited to her needs.

    She undulated into his life two years ago, all curves, and indentations and all in the right places. His eyes followed every sway she must know the effect she had. The men in the room surveying her landscape imagining surfing her waves and hoping to stay on top in control.

    He dived right in and never came up for air. Now he’s floating in dismay with no anchor to hold his body in place, aimlessly searching. He’s drowning, in a sea of despair, no willpower left to fight the tidal waves of emotion.

    She reads of his death, headlined accidental, but knew he had sailed headfirst into jealousy’s arms. She loved him from the moment she sat eyes on him, but he never let her out of his sight, not a moment’s peace. She cries bittersweet tears he’ll haunt her for the rest of her years.


  20. Nature Calls
    210 Words

    Your application has been processed and you have been invited for an interview.

    The man at reception, immaculate in his purple spandex, told Randall to wait. An hour ticked by.

    Randall didn’t have the skillset for anything technical and he wasn’t prepared to work in faster-than-lightspeed-food. He had to impress the RingMaster. His nerves were shot so he went to the cafeteria for a cup of tea.

    Two hours and a few trips later he was summoned. Reception had informed him there were no public facilities and he hoped for a short interview. He’d do a quick tumbling routine and she’d have to love him.

    The RingMaster was glorious in her spandex tuxedo and in her presence, Randall started to relax.

    “We’ll begin with some preliminary questions,” she said.

    Randall crossed his legs.

    Another hour later he’d answered everything from his favourite breakfast cereal to his preferred colour of underspandex. Inside he felt the roaring force of Niagara Falls desperate to be released.

    “If you’ll follow me, I’d like to see what you’ve got.”

    This was it. Randall begged the Falls to wait a little longer.

    “I almost forgot – you need the obligatory slap to the stomach,” the RingMaster said.

    After that, Nature won. (Naturally.)

    Randall didn’t get the job.


  21. Nothing

    “Pity we couldn’t have done it bigger,” Tom says, looking from the sparkling symmetrically set cutlery and crystal cut glasses, napkins secured in burnished holders, to his wife.

    “What? Get all the neighbours round?” Vic asks, eyebrows raised above meticulously made up, yet bloodshot eyes. “Sure they’d’ve been up for that, in the circumstances.” She sighs; shakes her head. “Just us is good.”

    “Not likely to go down as the best Falls party, is it?”

    “’Cos there is such a thing, isn’t there?” Vic says, tone sharp. “Besides, who’d know? After?”

    “Sorry. Stupid,” Tom says. “Look – d’you want a drink whilst we wait? One last hurrah?”

    “Not really,” Vic responds. She pauses, then, “They say it’s going to be spectacular – the showers.”

    “You know the odds are like one hundred to one against? Comparative to an asteroid?” Tom observes. “It was on the news last night.”

    “Plus, the majority of cometary bodies never make it beyond the Oord’s borders,” Vic says quickly. “I’m more than aware. Thanks. Nature ruddy well wins out. Again. Savvy scientists, probes and gravity tractor theorem be damned.”

    “It’s just…” Tom begins, breaking off. “Vicky – what is there to say? Now?”

    “Nothing,” Vic says, eyes averted; blurry. She moves away. “Nothing at all.”


    (210 words)


  22. Choosing a path

    @geofflepard 207 words

    ‘Do you have me?’
    ‘Yes, da.’
    ‘It’s steep here?’
    ‘Sure, da.’
    ‘Don’t take risks. The mountain is unforgiving.’
    You forgave her when ma left.
    ‘You don’t have to do this.’
    You picked me up and held my heart, soft, palpating hope into stone.
    ‘Leave me here. The mountain will take me.’
    You never left me. You showed me the world, pushed me out before I rooted my grief.
    ‘I’m worried, son.’
    ‘You’ll feel the spray, da. Soon.’
    You held fast when cutting me adrift was easier.
    ‘You’ve still got me? I’m a weight.’
    You were a barrier against cruelty. Hungry you fed me. Broke you subbed me. Forlorn, you nurtured me. You were my rock, my wall, my roof, my all.
    ‘She’d be proud of you, your ma.’
    You became her, teaching me compassion and kindness.
    ‘And Jane.’
    You had the strength to let me go to her. And to take me back when she was no more.
    ‘Is that spray?’
    ‘Sure, da.’
    ‘You made it.’
    We made it, despite everything.
    I hitch you high, a parcel of a man. You laugh.
    ‘Time to toss the rubbish. Time to let me go.’
    As I jump, holding you to me, you scream. For once, da, it’s my choice.


  23. Swept Away
    206 words

    It was a peaceful life in the mountain temple until the day they found him in the shallows by the waterfall. He seemed to be a hunter who had lost his way on the slippery path and tumbled into the rushing water. The Mother Superior was reluctant to take in a strange man, but how could she refuse?

    All the novices vied for the chance to sit beside him, as he thrashed in fevered dreams. All but one. He was no stranger to her. “I won’t go back with him,” she told the Mother Superior. “Even if he was supposed to be my husband. That life is over for me.”

    Mother Superior sighed, “He has come here looking for you. He is bound to find out.”

    “Not if he thinks I am dead.” the girl said.

    And that is what they all thought when they found the body of a girl at the foot of the waterfall, her hair tangled in the rocks. That is how she had come to be there. In his fevered dreams, the husband thought she was a ghost. Now he vowed to return every year to remember her.

    Even here, the rushing of the world, the current that sweeps you away.


  24. “Oops,” said Wile E. Coyote
    199 words

    Janet checked the readings one last time and thumbed the mic switch, “Okay, Ben, we’re a go. Set NCS to OFF.”

    “NCS to OFF, Roger.” Ben closed the last relay, and the world stopped.

    The land under Victoria Falls was known to be filled with treasures desired around the world. Rare minerals. Oil. The remains of a thousand doomed falls jumpers. A complete brachiosaurus skeleton. And, as a surprise for anyone who could get down there, the nearly-intact remains of a ship of travelers from Kepler-438b. But the waters were too turbulent, and no one had successfully extracted the goodies.


    The Nature Control Systems team came at things from a different perspective. Instead of fighting the water, stop it. And instead of building a mechanical barrier, just control the water itself. What’re the Laws of Thermodynamics to people who dreamt this big?

    Mother Nature was known to be a bit of a prankster. Nipples on men? The color indigo? Penguins? Please. So when Ben closed that relay, she didn’t just stop the water – no, that would be too easy. She stopped it all. Everything. Every single vibrating electron froze in place.

    Well, everything except for the de-pantsing gremlins.


  25. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 195

    Song of a Salmon

    There are other fish in the sea,
    But none so great as talented me.
    I can swim; I’m strong and fast,
    You should see me; I’m never last.
    I flip my fin and fleetly flee,
    I fly and flash and flop, that’s me!
    The currents split at my command
    I never ask for a helping hand.
    Not that fish have hands, oh no,
    Just a turn of phrase, you know.
    The waters block me, hold me back,
    Form a shield without a crack.
    Think that I won’t press on through
    But they don’t know me like I do.
    I’ll show them all, the ones that say
    I’m crazy, cracked—that I will pay.
    I’ll gird my loins, another phrase
    That makes no sense for a fish these days.
    Upstream I go; look now, I’m gone,
    Your fishy glares just hurry me on.
    Look now, laugh, point, gossip, gab,
    I don’t care—not one little dab.
    You can’t understand why I don’t go
    Along with you, swim with the flow.
    I’ve got to conquer, can’t you see?
    Swim up, not down; so come join me!
    I’m not a perch, shark, shrimp, albacore,
    I am Salmon; hear me roar!


  26. ANT-THEM

    210 words

    I use to sing it, you know, all the time. It was a cub/scout thing. We’d be trekking through the woods on some godforsaken mission, you know, happy-go-lucky troopers wanting to pitch tents, tell fart jokes, identify trees, and, instead of being quiet, enjoying the silence, we’d be ordered to sound off with, “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah,” like we were tickled pink that the pesky little creatures were on the move, streaming like some massive waterfall, drop after drip after a billion ants, all strung out in a row…



    Oh, and look how cute they are? That one, yeah, that one, the little one there, stopping to suck his thumb. That is so precious. Like ants have thumbs.

    Even my Aunt Eloise only had one, losing the other in a tragic home pork chopping incident when she was thirteen.

    But I digress.

    Hollywood was never fooled.

    You only have to watch “Them,” made in 1954 and warning us about the two most destructive forces in the universe, Man and his nuclear fetish, and Nature, and her “it’s all right, I am Mother Nature and it’s all good.” She gave us Giant Radiated Ants hiding out in the massive storm-drains of L.A.



    • The insects are supposed to be the most successful creatures on this planet – even more so than us lesser mortals. At least its ants this time and not spiders. Like the humorous touches here, poor Aunt Eloise.


  27. The Trek
    (209 words)

    The ubiquitous “they”, whoever they are, said it couldn’t be done. I struggled against that little voice in my head that agreed with them. A lone female trekking up the Amazon without a guide would seal her own date with death.

    Day 1: Eight-legged beasties compete with footless slitherers for the title of “scared her witless.”
    Day 2: Barely missed being dinner for a gaping-mawed relative of my Tabby cat.
    Day 3: Despite sun-block, starting to look like a boiled lobster.
    Day 4: Lost some blood to blood-suckers, both the clinging and biting kind.
    Day 5: Thought of cooling off in the waters, until the log floating in the middle of the stream moved.
    Day 6: Beginning to question my sanity.
    Day 7: Stopped to smell the flowers – regretted it when they lunged at my nose.
    Day 8: Too late to turn back.
    Day 9: Thick vegetation keeps the moonlight from reaching the jungle floor – having flashbacks to monsters hiding in my closet.
    Day 10: The hallucinations are taking over.
    Day 11: Refuse to believe the roaring in my head.
    Day 12: Sun-burnt, insect-bitten and foggy-brained, I stare incredulously at Iguazu Falls.

    Whispers of, “Why didn’t she join the tour?” greet me as I stumble into the visitor center.


  28. Man vs his own nature; or Too much coffee today to think properly right now?; or just “Man” vs Nature
    (209 Words)

    “Freeze it,” she suggested, “It’s the only way, surely. That’s how we conquered Scan…”


    “These things are sent to try us. All you can do is freeze it,” she suggested. “It’s the only way, surely. It’s what we did in the north, we can do it here.”


    “These things are sent to try us, Alan, all we have to do is freeze it. What other way is there?”


    I got uncomfortable with my own idea; it felt too colonial, too oppressive. Even setting it away from Africa in a fantasy world still wouldn’t sit right with me.

    Freezing a waterfall in Africa to defeat a local tribe (or Nature herself?)? I mean, please.

    And with magic, it’s too easy. Almost-anti-nature vs earth wizards doesn’t fit well here, either.


    At the start of things, “Man” and Nature were pitted against one another in a struggle to see who would dominate the other across time.

    Challenged to climb a great waterfall, “Man” looked across the ages to see the tools at “his” disposal. Seeing how differently humans and nature would evolve “he” smiled, produced a device to freeze the waterfall, and clambered up it.

    Seeing his shortsightedness, Nature smiled, conceded defeat and looked to the long game.


  29. I am a Brave Man
    210 words

    John Kaimoi grew maize. He used to walk through his fields, hands waving above the green stalks, proud to provide for his family.

    Then the rains did not come. Stalks wilted; goats died. Aid workers came. “Maize can’t survive in sandy soil when it’s dry,” they said. “Next year plant sorghum.”

    John prayed for rain.

    God answered. Hope returned. But with the rain came elephants, trampling crops en route to the river to water.

    “Ivory sells,” the village men whispered, belly-empty and pride-wounded. “Sixty dollars US a kilo. “But the animals are dangerous. The act is criminal.”

    “We are desperate,” said John. “And I am a brave man.”


    Into the night, he creeps, spear in hand. The elephant he separates from the memory has a calf.

    He throws his spear anyway.

    The mother screams, falls, dies.

    The stars condemn him from above.

    The baby runs towards the river crossing above the Falls.

    John follows, sick at heart.

    It steps onto the treacherous, slippery basalt. If it falls, it dies. Nothing can survive a plunge over the Falls.

    “Let it live, God,” John prays. “I will find it to take to the sanctuary near Harare. I do not know how, but I will do it. I am a brave man.”


  30. Moyo the Elephant
    210 Words

    Ga-lung, Ga-lung.

    When he cannot rumble the ground to find the Mothers in his Memory, Moyo emits a call, not too loud.

    Badman near. The killing one.

    Moyo wets his four feet in the river, steps on the slippery stones. The current pulls. Terror-need pushes him deeper. The abyss, where the water drops away in a torrential rush, howls and thunders. Spray rises a thousand feet into the air.

    Mothers’ memories: Edge. Bad place. Death place. Drowning place.

    Badman stands on the shore, spattered in Mother-blood.

    Moyo struggles across the river’s expanse. Badman follows.

    RUN. Memory, blood, mother, gone, she rise like vapor, sink like river-stone.
    Badman, big stick.

    A rope catches his neck.
    Moyo falls.

    Edge too close.

    Moyo paddles upstream as the man pulls the rope . Together they get Moyo onto the rock again.

    Badman not like Mothers, not gentle push-nudge. Drives Moyo like cattle.
    Village not like Memory. Cooked flesh, smell of human. Smell of death.

    Bad men, jeering, “John, crazyman. First you kill elephants, now you save them? You can’t get that baby to Harare in that run-down truck.”

    “His name is Moyo. I promised God I’d take him to the sanctuary for orphaned elephants after I killed his mother. And I will do it.”


  31. Up the creek

    It all started when I stepped on that frog. It was an accident, darn thing jumped right under my foot. The squelch echoed off the valley walls, a warning and a call to arms for the other residents of the jungle.

    The guide turns to glare at me and makes a cross over his heart. Superstitious tribal folk, afraid of mother nature. Where I’m from we’ve paved right over her and erected pillars of glass and steel on her grave.

    He gets our canoes into the water quicker than usual. As soon as we leave the shore he starts shouting directions. Avoid this, go right, watch for crocs. I ignore him as usual, I’m not used to taking orders from anyone. His only job is to keep me safe. If I wanted someone bossing me around I’d have stayed at home with my wife.

    The current starts to pick up. I’m about to take a picture when I spot dark black eyes poking out of the water. I crank my paddle, narrowly dodging the jaws that burst from the depths. The guide panics, but I just laugh and shout, “Nice try, but you’re going to have to try harder than that!”

    That’s when I hear the roar of the waterfall.

    210 words


  32. The High Country

    “With kudos to the NFB 1950 doc, “A Friend at the Door.” And , I guess, Sam Peckinpah classic for the title.
    209 words

    Once every couple of months, I leave my ancient oak, government-issued desk, rent a gentle Palomino named Flash and a pack mule named Calliope from the Lazy W Ranch, buy flour, sugar, and an assortment of canned goods, and ride into the high country to see Harry Lassiter, WW 1 vet, retired miner and committed recluse.

    While Harry had made it back in one piece from the war, that one piece was pretty banged up. For 35 years, he has domiciled in and around Atherton Mountain.

    Since I have known him, he has lived alone, miles from other humans, in a small shack half way up Atherton Mountain. He hunts most of his food, bathes in Harry’s Creek, a name he has given to the small stream that flows past his cabin.

    He is soaking in the sun on his rickety porch when I ride up.

    “Expected you last week, Tom.”

    “Couldn’t get away. How you faring, Harry?”

    “Good, ‘cept for the eyes.”

    “Getting worse, eh?”

    “Maybe it’s time to get them tested?”

    “That would mean coming to town?”
    “It would.”

    “I’ll think on it.”

    “Sure you will, Harry!”

    We have dinner together, swap lies, discuss going blind.

    In the morning, I ride down alone.



    Look, I know you’ll storm out the door of this diner at the slightest provocation. I prepared myself on the plane ride. Or I tried.

    What happened? Was it one horrible moment, or a long slide?

    Why don’t I have any idea?

    When did your veins fill with fire? What monstrous forces forged in some fiery core? When did your eyes go dark?

    I see it in your skin. Pierced with metal, red with welts. Damage. Pain. Anger. You used to glow. I used to bathe in it, when you threw your arms around my neck.

    Anger is pain, anger is fear. In an instant I would put on armor and go to battle.

    I would slay your demons in the fatherhood arena. Bloodied, I would hold aloft the gorgon’s head and declare your freedom.

    This is what a father does for a daughter.

    But I swing my sword and it meets nothing. The deluge dashes me on the rocks. I can’t even keep my footing, much less wield a weapon.

    I will keep trying. Forever. I will pay the airfare. I will try to see you through the flood.

    Even as the current carries me away.

    197 words


  34. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Dream
    196 words

    “Give me a sound ship. And give me the waves. Lastly – Give me a star to steer her by.”

    These were the prolific words I first heard on my Father’s knee. Words I dreamed about every instant of my childhood. Words I clung to going through my rebellious teenage years. Words I saved and sacrificed for throughout my working career.

    Words I finally realized into reality in the sunset years of my life.

    If words can lay a path at ones feet, a map of desire one will follow throughout the long, yawning years of existence – then it was these three simple statements which laid my bootie-clad toes on the trail.

    I never doubted – never wavered in my life’s goal – and earned the freedom to pull my lifeblood from the water. My ship is small – but our hearts beat as one. I go forth upon the waves to pit my wiles against the most abundant element on the face of this Earth. Proudly, I cast away from the shore to sail off into the crimson and gold sunset.

    I’m fairly sure…no…I’m positive… I never requested a freaking WATERFALL be at the end of my journey!


  35. Subsistence
    209 words

    The tremors drag Catona awake in the oxidized hours of night. Her daughter sleeps on, little snores synchronized to the howl from outside. Catona wraps a sky blue burnous about her weariness and slips from the shelter.

    A chasm of water yawns across a severed shore. Lightning curdles black clouds. Thunder into silence, the way it always goes. Bergs of earth shudder from the mainland, drift away, and mire themselves in the star-swamped sky. Cataract into mists into nothingness.

    “A big one,” Petra notes behind her. “I’ve never seen one spill that much water.”

    Catona has. A decade ago. She’d been driven by a restless pregnancy into the midnight woods, scrambling after river rock. She held pebbles pressed between tongue and palate, grounding herself in the grit and scent of petrichor, as the berg of her village cracked off without her.

    Animal panic, believing her side the broken one. Unfathomable despair, realizing it wasn’t. There weren’t enough stones in all the world’s rivers to settle her desolation. And though gestated by tears and howls, the infant Petra emerged swaddled in serenity.

    Catona doesn’t say it but suspects Petra knows: they’re the berg now. She clings to her daughter, her little pebble, as the entropic tempest howls through her heart.


  36. The Hurricane
    210 Words

    She woke up in a closet, which was strange because she had fallen asleep in the bed next to her sister. To her sleep-deprived mind it looked more like a fort than her parent’s walk-in.

    Lightning cracked across the sky, overpowering the winds, and she gasped in response. Thunder followed in a deep rumbling far louder than any other rainstorm, which made sense since this was a category 5 hurricane.

    It wasn’t her first hurricane, but it was the first that required the walk-in closet.

    A crash, suddenly, and their eyes flew to the door.


    He should have installed the shutters but the storm was supposed to turn north, supposed to miss them, supposed too. Now, it’s on top of his family.

    He gripped the doorframe as the lightening cracked and caught his wife’s eye. They were both scared; they were both barely holding it together.

    Then, the crashing noise – window broken, or worse, part of the roof.

    “Go, I’ll stay with the kids.”

    The hallways were dark, powerless. He walked blindly towards the noises he shouldn’t be hearing: rain too close, wind too fierce.

    Glass littered the floor and where there once was a window he saw a wall of rain, a waterfall, coming straight towards them.


  37. Title: Pests and Pets
    Word count: 208

    I collect the mail. Anna waves from across the street looking as if she wants to say something but I never give that chatterbox an opportunity.

    I go through mail:

    ‘Viking Termite Exterminators’ was offering 10% off.

    ‘Org-garden’ has a new scare tactic: tick transmitted virus ‘Powassan’.

    ‘Petting-Zone’ was offering a free dog grooming.

    Missing poster – The girl last seen selling cookies door-to-door.

    ‘Lawn-Doctor’ was selling weed protection.

    ‘Basement-band’ wanted my gold in exchange for my mold.

    I throw them all in the recycling bin. Waste of paper. Who wants strangers in their property AND pay them a ransom?

    I spend the next hour spraying chemicals on weeds and taking out the hornet’s nest in the dryer pipe.

    I come inside exhausted. A new cobweb welcomes me in the hallway. There’s a rattle upstairs.

    The cobweb has to wait. I open the attic hatch. Small beady eyes peer at me, with fright, hunched in the cage. My mouth turns dry. I can feel the cold steel turning warm and sticky , the blood gushing out ,flowing down the floorboards like a waterfall ,except this one will trickle to a stop too soon. I fight the impulse…maybe tomorrow. I check on the mice traps. Nothing yet. I close the hatch.


  38. @bex_spence
    195 words


    I see the water, but can’t hear it’s rush. That roar of power as the river churns and tumbles, the sound of life. It mocks me as I sit in the sterile hospital room. The picture on the wall, full of possibility. Natures finest printed on canvas, framed in cheap plastic.

    It wasn’t even hung straight. The top right corner was too high, not by much but when you’re sat hour after hour with nothing but a panoramic and a drip in your arm, it screams at you.

    I closed one eye, try to get a different view, change my perspective. There are only so many views though. I rest my eyes, and am free for a while. Just the pink glow of my inner eye.

    The Doctor has been, I won’t be leaving. The infection spread too deep, too fast. All I have now is this magnolia room, and that picture.

    No more rushing water, no breathing in that fresh sharp air. It’s gone ripped from me. I lift my charts, hurl them at the wall. Smack into the picture. The impact did little, knocked and swayed. At least the frame was straight now.


  39. Disenchanted

    Books had taught her that there were always mystical caves behind the waterfalls of the world. For those downtrodden few, places like this would change their lives. On the other side of the cascading water, there would be adventure, and the qualities that made them undesirable in this world, would make them heroes in those strange lands.

    But here there were no mystical caves, and destiny left no clues for her to follow. There were only the tourists, with cameras draped around their necks or smartphones held at the end of their extended arms. They followed the tour guide like a flock of sheep. He would spout some useless fact, and they would “ooh” and “aah” in unison, moving too fast to actually experience anything.

    She lagged behind and stared at the ordinary water falling into a pit of nothing special. The mist drenched her face, and she was thankful; it would help hide her tears. She swung her adventure pack, filled of survival supplies, off her shoulders. There would be no need for these things, because there was no world for her to save. She was the one who needed saving. But now she had to return to her broken life, disenchanted.

    204 words


    • ‘Ordinary water falling into a pit of nothing special’, different view but one I can empathise with, too often expectations can be high and you get somewhere and it all goes flat, becomes a let down. Glad that she can live with her disappointment though, there have been a lot of jumpers this week!


  40. @stellakateT
    192 words

    The Journey

    “I’d follow you to the ends of the earth” I heard myself say.

    But no I just wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I remember following you along that trail in the Adventure Park feeling lost and hungry, dragging my feet. Was I pleased when the burger bar came into sight and you decided you didn’t want to be David Bellamy anymore? I was delirious happy for a few days until you wanted to fly over the welsh countryside in a hot air balloon and I had to fight the urge to be sick when the basket swayed in the wind. My fingers clenched tight to the wicker in case I was tossed over the side and fell like a lemming.

    The picture is amazing, you gazing over the terrain, a war zone. The End of the Earth, the newspaper describes it. I remember the battles we had and the making up afterwards when we soothed each others wounds. Then one day without warning the war was over. You packed the purple holdall with life’s necessities. I slipped in a pack of Jaffa Cakes so you’d remember me. The little girl terrified by your dreams.


  41. Dragons in the Falls
    210 words

    Olympus Falls is the tallest waterfall in all the known worlds, and it was said there were dragons in the mist. Ariel paused amid the roar of the rushing water. She took notice of the sunlight on the sparking rocks. She marveled that there were mosses and orchids growing there and nowhere else.

    Millions of eyes watched with her, as Ariel adjusted the wing suit. A wink of her eye, “Here we go.” and they felt the liftoff as she jumped. They fell with Ariel through the mist. They felt the drops on their skin, the rush of falling, the smell of water on rock, the joy of flight.

    To fly, perchance to see the dragons hiding in the rainbows below the falls. Her eyes, sharp as the hunting birds that dive for the leaping fish.

    Millions of bodies slumped in suspension chambers, hammocks on ships, bunks in the workers’ quarters on the asteroid mines. They lived to see what Ariel saw, to live the life she lived.

    Ariel smiled, the perfect blonde. Her blue eyes as clear and blue as the sky of Olympus or the Earth of old. She smiled white teeth. Millions of eyes saw the shape coming out of the mist, the bright green eyes of flame.


  42. Kept

    210 words


    The seconds had swum past her, a flood of time, enough to drown in for eternity. And Ania waited, even as she drowned. The others were long gone, become the ground upon which only their ghosts now walked. Why she had been allowed to survive, she did not know. Her gaze drifted towards the cliff edge; beyond it she could see the twinkling lights of the remaining settlements. Soon they would come to join her, cross this last Rubicon as they sought a safe haven.

    Nature waited silently with her for these remaining humans, they had destroyed so much, there were to be no more chances. She would take them quietly, gently, these errant children, back into her own keeping. But she needed bait. Tendrils reached out from the vine-bound trees towards the prisoner, placing berries on her tongue, dripping water into her mouth. The wind carried Ania’s cries toward the camps.

    And so they came.

    She heard voices murmuring through the undergrowth, shocked cries echoing at the sight of her. Creepers now gagged her, prevented her from warning them. Instead slithering vines rippled beneath weary feet, pulling them down to pillowed grass, even before they realised what was happening. These were the last. And the world closed its eyes.


  43. “Victoria’s Fall”
    by Michael Seese
    206 words

    The flood of tears threatened to carry her away. What began months ago as an occasional trickle had grown into a raging torrent that nearly drowned her every night.

    It is said that the individual droplets of water which comprise a river will, in time, return to their source. Victoria knew that someday she, too, would. Until that day – the day she could walk through the front door and tell her parents they were right when they said big-city life was not in her blood – she relied on memories of home to keep her afloat.

    She tasted her mother’s cobbler, laden with peaches picked from the orchard. She felt the tickle of a butterfly which alighted on her nose, its wings casting a kaleidoscope across her field of vision. She smelled the freshly cut straw piled in the barn. (After discovering boys, she would form a whole new set of associations with the scent of straw.) She even managed to hear in the blare of horns, sirens, and desperate shouts the soothing thrum of the silver stream which bisected her backyard.

    These tactile comforts sustained Victoria, and helped counteract the bile which rose in her throat each time another john laid a twenty on the nightstand.


  44. “Over The Edge”
    by Michael Seese
    205 words

    She wavered, her resolve bobbing like a lost cork tossed into a stormy sea.

    She toyed with the edge, dancing on the precipice, then pulling back before gravity could win the battle.

    She knew that if she took the plunge, everything would change.

    Those who surrounded her seemed content to follow the course that stretched out before them. But she could not find comfort in conformity. She never could see clear to just letting herself go with the flow. Her odyssey had been one marked by turbulence, a series of stops and starts, rapids and shallows, eddies and vorticies.

    Then a memory came flooding back. That of winter’s chill, of being frozen time, fearful of never again knowing what running feels like. That was enough.

    I should do it. I will do it, she thought even though a drop of water is not capable of what, through the lens of humanity, could be called actual thought. She let go of the safety of the rock and rode over the falls.

    Downstream, somewhere, her new life awaited. She had no idea where it may lie. But she would find it. Until she did, she knew one thing. She was free, freer than she ever had been.


  45. Vantage Point
    -Maven Alysse

    He stared over the edge, a frown on his face, trying to figure out why he felt so unsettled.

    It wasn’t the height – he’d never feared heights, had always felt most confident up above away from humanity; hell, his apartment balcony stood higher

    nor the fall – that momentarily feeling of weightlessness before gravity takes hold; the sheer exhilaration of surrendering yourself to greater forces

    or even the inevitable collision with the unforgiving ground that bothered him – a sharp pain, and then, hopefully, blessed oblivion.

    No, it was the sound. The roar and churn of water as it cascaded over the edge and crashed in a cacophony that to his ears mimicked the shrieks, shouts, and screams of those who’d followed the siren’s call to jump in a susurration of sound.

    He could feel it in his bones, tugging at him, drawing him closer. It drowned out everything – his heartbeat, his own thoughts, even the frightened calls of his friends behind him.

    His backpack slipped from his shoulders and his blue slicker fluttered in the breeze behind him as he took a step forward and spread his arms in reply.

    (words: 192)


  46. Streaming
    (195 words)
    drip drip drip, she places another teacup under the leaking roof, deluge, gurgle gurgle gurgle, the baby’s chest discharges yellow green fluid cultured by the dank poisoned air, shoulders bare as she places her shawl over the child that bawls, comfort not cure, drip drip drip, she’s run out of basins and she’s run out of pots, empty food tins now marking the spots punctured above their heads, rattle rattle rattle, devil’s fingernails tapping at her nerves, the holes gape, laughing mocking the little girl lost, outside inside- stove on the pavement, cradle on the grass, baby rasps, landlord hints at being paid in kind, she’s running out of time, she’s running out of concrete, shelter, she’s running out of self, drip drip drips, a waterfall, fill the holes with paper, prop them up with hope, hope’s disappearing wallpaper sodden peeling revealing other decades other stories other slices of lives, cracks papered over, starting afresh, drip drip drip, whoop whoop whoop call for the doctor rat-a-tat-tat, the doctor comes with his wallet and his bag, and he leans right over the baby’s bed, he takes one look and he shakes his head.


  47. (Words 210)

    Incessant rain saw the water rise to alarming levels. The officials had no choice but to open the floodgates. River Kosi, like a caged lioness, crashed out, breathing devastation. A deluge of muddy water cascaded down the sluice gates in a waterfall of destruction.
    Then furious Kosi changed her course; devouring villages, sparing not a man or beast, in her urgency to reach the sea.

    Durga found herself trapped in an abandoned mud hut. Her husband Ramu, had gone to get help. They had escaped the wrath of the river and reached higher grounds. Now, there was nowhere to go.
    She stared at the water swirling around her ankles, as she held her six month old to her bosom.

    Ramu clutched the side of the rescue boat, as it cut through the water in the direction he had come from. The journey was slow as they manoeuvered around debris, animal carcasses and probably human too.
    At last he sighted the mud hut. It was partially submerged in the murky water and the roof had caved in. His heart sank. He called out her name again and again, voice muffled by the heavy downpour.
    Hopeless despair sank in.
    Then, he heard her anguished cry!
    He looked up towards the heavens, “Thankyou!”


  48. To Dream, Perchance…ending in Nightmare
    209 words

    “Well…NAOW what?”

    My dream is shattered – its bones lay scattered amongst the rocks, its body reduced to splinters and flotsam dancing in mocking merriment amongst the tidal pools swirling in complete abandonment at the bottom of a rather unexpected waterfall.

    I first felt the pull deep in my gut – the stern suddenly pulling hard a-port as the bow shoved water out of its way starboard. The spinning sensation intensified in my head as I felt the hastily-dropped anchor scrape along the bottom of the river-bed…dragged without purchase by the strong current of gravity-influenced water.

    At least the water washed away my body’s response to the chaotic, tumbling, twirling, ugly dance we performed over the lip of the falls, ending with my spectacular belly-flop in calmer waters. You know that old saying: ‘First you say it, then you DO it?’ Yup…accurate.

    I raise an ineffectual, dripping fist toward the heavens, screaming my protest at the top of my aged lungs.
    “This wasn’t part of the dream, damn-it!”

    Unheard, to be certain, as the throaty growl of the towering sheet of clear/green-y water drowns out all other noise.

    I lay a wet cheek against a pillow of mud – letting the salt of my tears mingle with the remains of my boat.


    • Dreams literally dashed – nice metaphor with the bones being scattered amongst the rocks. Hope she can pull herself out of the mud and try again.


  49. Happy Hunting

    “They say a girl took her life here. Pregnant out of wedlock,” Carl says, his mouth twisting upwards.

    “How very dare she!” Ella exclaims, laughing. Her hand twists the metal band on her finger full circle.

    “Plunge into the fall for her,” Carl says, watching the waters cascade from the heart shaped opening above into the stream below. “She’s down there, somewhere, y’know?” he says absently.
    “Shut up!” Ella says, nudging his shoulder and hugging it lightly with both hands.

    “Really!” Carl insists. “Can’t you see?” He takes hold of his wife’s arm, guiding her towards the banks.

    “I…” Ella says, frowning. “Carl…” There is no reply.

    A splash – then silence. Bubbles break the surface, before Bopath pulls Ella down towards its depths; currents insurmountable. She cannot win. They never do, though they try. Still, things have a way of sorting themselves with a little patience. Carl waits, silent, expressionless, until the meniscus is clear; unmarred by disturbances.

    “Happy hunting, lover,” Carl murmurs. He laughs below his breath. “That’s right. No chance to mention that particular legend. No matter. Modern day treasure’s mine. Papers signed means money in the bank, after the will.” He sighs. “I’m sure I told you not to go near the edge? So careless, really.”


    (210 words)


    • Thanks, Stella!

      Not to freak you out but the legend about Bopath Ella is accurate. In theory, 1000 sacrificial victims are required to discover the waterfall’s hidden treasure. 😉

      I see a gremlin stole an extra paragraph break from me whilst I wasn’t looking! Hey ho!


  50. Morgan Vega Gomez
    209 words

    “Broken Vows and Broken Bones”

    He felt nameless. He felt purposeless. He felt lifeless.

    Words muddied his brain, mixing with the roar of the waterfall, filling his camping tent. Words like “problem,” “disappointment,” and “failure.”

    Am I those words?

    He rolled over. A rock dug into his back.

    I should be nameless. I should be purposeless. I should be lifeless.

    Stars mocked him through his tent’s “stargazer lounge,” as the box called it. Big and shining. Admired by all.

    He’d settle to be admired by one. Someone.


    I’m better than these feelings. This depression.

    But he couldn’t escape his emotion. It was his nature. To feel dejected. To feel alone. To feel powerless.

    The waterfall gurgled power through the nylon fabric.


    Sweat stuck his flannel shirt to his chest. He unzipped his sleeping bag, stuffed his sock-covered feet into his worn-out shoes, and left the tent.

    I can’t do this anymore.

    Nothing followed this trip. He couldn’t go back to his empty house, his worthless wedding ring beside the sink. He couldn’t go back to the weeks on the road, the life of a truck driver.

    I’m worthless. I’ve been thrown away.

    The water’s roar deafened him now.

    I’m nameless. I’m purposeless. I’m lifeless.

    His body plummeted with the water.


  51. Chromaphobia

    A scarlet moon soared lazily into the clear blue sky. Arcane gazed at its serene progress, praying for it to reach its destination. As he inflated another messenger he watched the waterfall cascade. A white frothing surge of power, thrashing against dark slick shadows below.

    His lungs burnt, the sour rubber taste of the balloons staining his lips. Yet he continued with his duty, sending another red sentinel, a handwritten plea hanging beneath.

    Across the other side of the waterfall a figure crested into view. Moments later a green balloon soared into the sky, disturbing the crimson pattern. Arcane delved into his bag, another red messenger leaving.

    Yet there was another green, then another.

    Arcane tried to ignore the intrusion, focusing on his messages, sending up an endless procession till his lungs ached and his fingers cursed with each torturous knot.


    A red corpse fell to earth. The figure, catapult in hand, taking aim. Releasing a stone that punctured another crimson messenger. Arcane was beside himself, what blasphemy was this? Today was scarlet, not emerald.



    Arcane delved into his bag, beneath the balloons and notes, retrieving the relic from the time before.

    The waterfall roaring as Arcane’s finger wavered.

    Then the figure raised the catapult again.


    210 words


  52. “Still”

    The world was still.

    Dev slowly revived, waking to a translucent calm. The air was quiet, and the sound of nothingness brought a smile to his lips. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept so well.

    He rummaged around the small camp he had put together. Just a few necessary items tucked into a cave, but it was home. The usual wave of loneliness washed over his soul as he thought about the others.

    As the sun grew hotter and the oceans began to boil, the others began to die. One by one they had deserted him, until he alone remained. After weeks of stumbling across the broiling desert by sheer will, he had braced himself for the inevitable.

    But now he had found the Falls. Shimmering with their life-giving glow, the Falls had taught Dev to laugh once again. He laughed aloud, delighted, but froze at the sound of his own voice. It echoed loudly in his ears.

    Too loudly.

    The world was still. So very still.

    Dev stepped outside, and gaped at the barren cliffs. Any evidence of the glorious Falls had completely disintegrated, and the valley was bone dry.

    His tears of defeat were the last drops to ever grace that unforgiving soil.

    208 words



    Brian S Creek
    192 words

    Since I was a boy I have trained for this moment and nothing else. Yet I am chilled to the bone when I first see it on the horizon.

    A rush of air almost topples me from my perch atop the rocks but I am steady. I have to be. I am all that sits between my people and the destructive wall of water that approaches. Their fate rests with me.

    This has happened before. My people survive because of the magic that resides in the blood of my ancestors. This is all I am, a defender. Nothing else can stop the water but me. I raise my hands and prepare to chant.

    And then I wonder about this phenomenon, this natural force that threatens the land every generation. Should it be stopped? I am told that I am a gift sent from God to protect my people, protect my city. But if the world belongs to God then so does the wall of water. What if God is trying to be rid of us?

    Who am I to defy my God?

    I lower my arms.

    And wonder what will happen next.



    Brian S Creek
    208 words

    Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, named Evangeline. On the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she was kidnapped by the goblin boys, and taken to the floating island of Lord Mudma.

    Mudma was angry at the King for turning the Emerald Forest to kindle, breaking the truce between mankind and nature.

    With the King offering a handsome reward for the safe return of his daughter, many a brave knight set off on this mighty quest.

    And so did Adal, son of a woodcutter.

    While some knights drowned crossing the Altus River, Adal asked the Otters to help him reach dry land. While some knights become lost within the Caves of Shadow, Adal asked the Fireflies to light his way. And when the remaining knights finally reached the floating island and saw no way up, Adal asked the Eagles to carry him.

    But, as Adal marched towards Mudma’s castle, he became entranced by the beauty of his surroundings. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. When he finally found Mudma, the Lord was sat in his gardens, listening to Evangeline’s beautiful singing voice.

    Adal knew then that he would never leave the floating island paradise. He knew then that he was home, his quest forgotten.


  55. The Water Wars of FIfth Hour
    210 words

    “Water is the most valuable commodity on earth.”

    Jason looked away from the picture of Victoria Falls, and watched the professor drone as he taught.

    “More valuable than gold or any precious metal by far, not because it compares in equal volumes, but because it far surpasses all other commodities in quantity.”

    Jason decided the man looked and sounded thirsty. His voice cracked. He frequently hesitated in order to swallow hard.

    “It is water that made Earth the privileged planet, allowing for life as we know it. We say life is carbon based, but in reality it is far more dependent upon water than carbon.”

    Jason decided to test his hypothesis. He pulled out his water bottle and took a slow sip. The professor’s eyes locked onto him.

    “Control the water, and you control the world.”

    Jason decided to multiply his stimulus and passed surreptitious notes instructing his classmates. Soon water bottles were on desks all over the room. Long cool sips would make the professor lose his train of thought.

    Finally the man surrendered.

    “It’s Friday before a long weekend. Why don’t we dismiss early?”

    On the way out of the building, Jason passed the professor bent over a drinking fountain.

    He who controls the water, wins. Jason thought.


  56. Emily Clayton
    197 words

    The World We Knew

    The world is buzzing. Roaring. It’s subtle, oh so subtle, yet I feel it in my bones. Like a million tiny flies hatching in my marrow, clambering for the exit. For release.

    I watch those fly catchers snap up gnats into their swift brown beaks. Gulp. Gone. Out for more. They’re stocking up, filling bellies with bite-sized morsels.

    They know. They sense it, too.

    “Analise,” my mother calls, “come quickly now.” She’s worried. She scans golden layered knolls, shifting her hands into sun-drenched pockets. Tumbling meadows mix with craggy headings, jagged peaks. Mists swirl in the distance.

    Waves prickle the shore with angry staccato notes. They’re dancing to a furious beat, maturing with each strike.

    Whoosh. Sand flecks my eyes, tension mounting.

    Villagers stir from their homes, dotting the coastline like nervous pacing mice. Murmurs rising on the wings of golden-eyed sea birds.

    It’s coming.

    Soaring birds, nervous squawks. Land creatures tumble past my wind-whipped legs.


    The roar deepens, echoing in my ears.

    “The water! Look at the water!”

    Alive. Fluid. Twisting. Churning. It’s a rattlesnake aiming to strike.

    The waters crest the narrow straits, drowning our history with every bead, every seep of mirth-roused tears.


  57. Turn Back
    209 words

    He glared at the waterfall. One more barrier on his journey. One more test. One more *insult* from Nature, telling him that he was just a man, that he was just a tiny speck of nothing, that, in ten million years, no one would remember his name, or his species, or that he even existed at all.

    “You *will* remember me,” he said.

    The waterfall roared, had been roaring since long before he had reached that place. Its roar was a challenge to every living thing: if you value your insignificant lives, turn back; leave here and find an easier path.

    “Never,” he said.

    For a moment, he considered the possibilty that the waterfall hadn’t even noticed him, that even if he shouted at the top of his lungs, it wouldn’t hear him.

    No. It was just pretending. Mocking him.

    “It’s just you . . . and me,” he murmured.

    “The helicopter to take us to the other side of the Falls has arrived,” the tour guide said, interrupting his reverie. “We’ve set up a wi-fi hot spot so you can check your emails and upload your photos.”

    Smugly, the man turned his back on the waterfall . . . and held up his smartphone so he could get a good selfie before they left.


  58. Crashing (210 words)

    Like moss overtakes a rock, slowly and then it seems all at once, to a point where it’s hard to remember a time before the moss, numbness had a way of doing that, too.

    Standing there, her feet on the silk-smooth rocks, Sam could feel her heartbeat sync with the falling, crashing water.

    This, Sam thought, the expansive falls, the random rocks, the trees in the distance, the domineering blue sky shadowing it all, seemed infinitely more touchable, understandable than the numbness like Spackle in her brain.

    The real ravages of nature existed hidden in the shadows of our minds, no mosaics to their power.
    Some say there’s beauty in struggle, like water carving out the Grand Canyon. But Sam only stepped in the puddles of depletion, where no rainbows refracted.

    She thought traveling thousands of miles from home, living with the family the school’s exchange program arranged and seeing a world unknown to her would change the world inside of her.

    That it would change the numbness. Until now, she didn’t realize the numbness was oblivious to time, to distance, to human concerns.

    Just like the moss near her feet, doing its thing on the rocks, oblivious to the crashing water across the way.

    The numbness said to leap.


  59. Devil’s Armchair
    Sarah Unsicker
    209 Words

    Kawame hugged her husband tight. “You know I don’t like you doing this job,” she told Mubanga.

    “What else can I do?” he asked. Jobs were scarce, except in the tourism industry. “With this money, we can provide the best life for our Umwana.” He rubbed Kawame’s bulging abdomen as he said it.

    Kawame frowned. “I want her to have a father, whether or not we have money.”

    Mubanga replayed this conversation as he steered the boat to the falls. This group of tourists giggled as though they were children, even though they looked older than his wife. “Is this really safe?” they asked him as they walked across Livingstone Island.

    Mubanga led their swim to a rock. He told them about visiting the Devil’s Pool with his father when he was ten. Then he jumped.

    The current took him to the edge of Victoria Falls. He saw the tourists’ frightened faces as he ducked underwater, before climbing onto a mossy rock at the edge of the falls. The job left no room for error. Yet, Mubanga encouraged the others to jump, to sit on the rock as he ensured their safety.

    The best part of this job was the hug Kawame gave him when he got home.


  60. Excursion
    209 words

    Propped up against the tree he could see the falls clearly. That’s what they came here for after all. Lightheaded from the blood loss, his right arm had also lost all feeling from the tourniquet. His severed hand, along with the dead, lay in the jungle by their tourist encampment. A rebel ambush efficient and brutal left one survivor. What would prey upon him now, he wondered.

    Dehydration, humidity strangled him. He lapsed in and out of consciousness. His dead wife floated above him, her gauze nightdress flowing like the white rapids plummeting. He wiped some tears from his cheek, but it was blood from where a machete struck his head. Rain fell; he turned his face skyward and drank.

    Soon night would fall and if he were not dead as the others he would be by morning. Insects found him. Ants crawled over his bloody stump, and other bugs unseen crawled over his head and brow. Predators wouldn’t likely touch him, but since he hovered so near the edge carrion feeders might. The sun dipped above the waterfall’s horizon gold and ablaze.

    His head fell against the tree’s smooth bark, settling. “Spectacular,” he mumbled as the fire and rage of life pulled away effortlessly like gravity drawing water downwards.


  61. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 195
    Cry Against the Cataract

    How do you kill what is immortal? Can vengeance be delivered against a being not cloaked in flesh? If such a thing is possible, may the gods hear me.

    Make me a wind, full as the hurricane, so my breath can dry up its life-giving tributaries. Give me Earth’s worm-laden belly; I will open my mouth of clay and swallow its rushing limbs. Grant me the bones of the mountain, and I will break myself over its headwaters, drown it in stone.

    For it took what I loved best. I see her still, eyes black as currants and skin like Turkish coffee. Her naked feet lost hold and it dragged her over its roaring rim. I could no more save her than an alder-fly can pluck a leaf from a churning river. My ikiz, my sister, extinguished.

    If you refuse to hear my case, know this: I will throw every pebble from its beaches in to choke its streams; I will gather every branch along its reaches to dam its width; I will carry every fistful of dirt to its ceaseless current until I’ve buried it. For it stole my womb-companion and I demand recompense.


  62. Golden Ticket with a Death Wish
    210 words

    That bug was his freedom ride, if he could counteract its suicidal tendencies.

    Trying to untangle himself from his mother’s double-knotted apron strings, he’d quit his 9-5 and purchased a house at the falls, fantasizing about paradisaical guided tours. But bowing to tourists’ whims left him as shackled as before, only poorer.

    Disillusioned and penniless, he was hiking to his intended demise when a faint gold glimmer caught his eye. Intrigued, he’d climbed the mossy rocks to discover a nondescript bug sitting in a nest of golden filaments.

    He reached to touch the threads, only to be dive-bombed by the kamikaze-trained bug. It smashed into him with a burst of foul-smelling air and landed, dead, just as his hand gripped the strands. Startled, he almost fell, but discovered the nest was strong enough to support him!

    He was lamenting the loss of the nest’s creator when more flying lemmings attacked him.

    “What the…? Do you all have a death wish?”

    And then he saw them. The eggs.

    Jumping down, his brain sprinted through problem-solving even while his body raced to build a copycat ecosystem.

    First, he’d work them like Rumpelstiltskin. Then, he’d contact his brother.

    Because even the Secretary of the US Department of Defense would think this was impressive.


  63. Pink Rainbows in Iron Skies (201 Words)

    White light through the ferrous clouds blushed the sky a rosy hue, and the dull roar from New Victoria Falls had lulled Gust and Mere to sleep. Nestled inside their hammock, they rocked on the deck of their airship over the Maroon Waters of Shorian.

    Mere stirred when a burst of wind broke against the wooden hull. Stretching her legs, she reached over to shake Gust. Another chilly blast knocked her against him, and the netted bed swung wildly.

    She scrambled over, out of the hammock and to her feet. Losing her footing, she sprawled forward onto the deck. Mere grasped the railing and pulled herself upward. As her gaze rose over the edge, her silver eyes widened. Diving backwards, she shook him. “Gust, Gust! Wake up!”

    Beneath a scowl, an eye popped open. “What is it, Mere?”

    She gasped, pointing frantically. “A tornado.” The word brought dread crashing in her stomach. “What do we do?” She pictured the water spouts from home, ripping water bound ships apart.

    Chuckling, he eased her back into the hammock. “Mere,” he kissed her hand. “These pink funnels are soft like cotton candy. Pretty like fireworks. Come back to bed. Let’s watch the coming storm.”


  64. A Natural Disaster
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    208 words


    I was aiming for a Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea kind of thing. Instead, I cracked open the earth. Again.

    I’m such a clumsy idiot.

    Mama says I just don’t know my own strength. Well, that’s what happens when you’ve got a god for a father.

    Of course Zeus claims it’s my temper and mischievousness that get me into so much trouble. He insists heritage has nothing to do with it.

    My cousins laugh at that. The world is rife with examples of apples not falling far from the tree. So are the heavens.

    There’ll be hell to pay for this.

    Hades will be pissed, of course – he doesn’t take kindly to people flooding his underworld.

    Poseidon will come after me with that pointy trident. Territorial, that one. No one else gets to play with water? Whatever.

    Athena will roll her eyes, like she always does. She thinks she’s so wise, just because she knows how to get inside daddy’s head.

    Maybe I can blame this on Pandora. She makes a convenient scapegoat these days, I admit.

    Or maybe I can convince daddy I did it on purpose. An homage to him, this “smoke that thunders.”

    Oh well. The damage is done.

    Now all I can do is admire it.


  65. **Hunger**
    205 Words

    Bird stared at the monster unflinchingly. The blackened waters had taken everything–but they were still rising. Even this far away, she could feel the water spray.

    She was the first to notice that the gods still frothed with anger, even after two sacrifices. If the water rose further, their village, down in the valley, would be devoured.

    “What is enough?” she whispered, looking at the blood-stained sky. Lines of grey clouds dripped in the heavens, hiding an all-seeing, yellow eye. “What more do you ask?”

    Responding to her words, wind swept up the hills and pushed against Bird’s back and pulled at her clothing; her black hair whipped her face, trying to pull her out of her hollow stupor. Her hands hung limp at her side, eyes fixed in a bitter gaze.

    She thought of the young men who shied away from her. Her mother’s sacrifice had been useless, and, now, her father’s.

    What would they think of her family now?

    *Cursed,* they would whisper. Her family’s names would be struck from the holy book as damned–why else would the gods reject them?

    The wind still urged her, threatening to tip her over the edge.

    Bird let it, hoping her sacrifice would be enough.


  66. Until Victoria Falls
    204 Words

    ‘How long can you hold your breath?’

    The question had seemed so innocent that Victoria had all but forgotten about it until she found herself clinging to a rock beneath the largest waterfall she had ever seen.

    The trip had been a surprise; something Eric had planned, taking her to exotic, out-of-the-way sites and taking pictures of everything they did.

    At times the camera seemed to get in the way, but she had to admit the results were breathtaking.

    Now her breath was being taken another way. He’d known what he was doing when he’d posed her at the top of the cliff facing the falls, safe from the raging river… except for the slippery rocks that turned treacherous when he signaled her to take another step back.

    She counted the seconds, holding on for dear life as the water pulled her under. She knew he was counting too.

    20 seconds… she felt her heart race.

    30… the roaring in her ears drowned out the falls. She managed to get her head above water only to be pulled under again.

    35… she heard him call her name, she just had to last until he thought she was gone.

    Thoughts of revenge gave her strength.


    207 words

    My great-grandfather’s tombstone says WALTER SKELLEY, WHO FELL INTO THE DRINK so I grew up thinking he was like me. I talked to him on bad nights, my spectral drinking buddy. One time we hit a deer and just kept driving. One time we passed out on an anthill in the backyard.

    Now, my sister Claudia stands in her pants suit, arms crossed, keys dangling. She’s looking at my wrecked car, at the field of fresh young saplings I flattened before cracking the big elm in half.

    I ask if we can stop at Walter’s grave on the way home and she turns to me, in a way that makes me understand she’s been waiting years for just the right raw moment, and says, “You know that means he drowned, right?”

    Once she says it I know of course it’s true, of course they wouldn’t put our secret on his tombstone, of course I’ve been wrong all along.

    “He was a hero,” Claudia says. “Not a drunk like you.”

    She tells me he was swallowed by a waterfall while fixing a bridge, and for a second I feel his ecstasy as he disappeared into the foamy veil.

    I know where my next drive will take me.


    • A case of history about to repeat itself; I like your description of how he felt his ‘ecstasy as he disappeared into the foamy veil’ as this reminds me of the foam head on a pint of beer and gives the phrase a double meaning.


  68. “Civilization”
    209 words

    It rained.

    First one day, then two. They made new names for its degrees and variances. They learned to live without being dry.

    The sun shone.

    Less and less as the red-green-blue clouds covered it, like a deranged pixelated mist. Some people said “I told you,” but without fervor. Did it matter?

    The trees dropped their leaves.

    Children grew up in metal tunnels, subsisting on strange mushrooms that grew without sun. Green was the color of the sky–how could it be life?

    The planet was Earth.

    The histories claimed it was a place to live. Now, they knew it a place to die.

    “Pass not beneath, O Caravan, Have you heard that silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird?”

    Language became keyboard clicks. Spoken? Who would speak to the emptiness? Connections through the great Net, brief and colorless, died as quickly as they were made. Imagine a thousand, alive only by clutching at the extremities of the definition, listlessly typing out words to their fellows, spread across a planet. Social creatures, now truly alone.

    One by one they dropped, like flies, like people. Silently, into the darkness.

    When the final flood came, it took no one.

    There was no one left to take.


    • Take heed, great apocalyptic story; aren’t some people there already ‘listlessly typing out words to their fellows’.


  69. (Late, I know. I was on the road most of the day and just got into a hotel a little while ago.)

    Sunset creeps across the barrens of the Thundersmoke site: the skies are all aflame. We gather ’round the fire: three anthropologists and a dozen overeager students, exhausted from their first dig.

    “Dosimeter check!” My colleague scribbles our absorbed radiation dose on his clipboard. Fifteen centures after history’s worst nuclear disaster, the site remains too hot for long-term habitation. He clucks his tongue at two of my students. “Significant gamma exposure. Where were you excavating?”

    The young woman blushes. Victoria falls in love like water over a precipice; it’s in her nature. Her graduate crush is a well-known charmer.

    “Grid reference D-7,” I tell Dr. Klipspringer. Once the site of a massive dam that held back waters for the immense cooling towers. Erosion has ground the concrete to dust, and water thunders over broken ruins.

    “They should stay back here at base camp tomorrow,” Klipspringer suggests. “Make sure they’ve gotten anything hot out of their systems before returning to the dig.”

    Victoria and her crush glance knowingly at each other. Only the foolishness of youth could think that something so intense, so uncontrollable, could last forever. I stare back toward Grid D-7, where the remains of the largest nuclear plant in history still radiates its gamma radiation glow.


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