Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 26

Welcome to the first Friday of June! It’s one exciting day after another here at the lair — no, I’m not referring to the toothbrush misadventure (and yes, the burnt rubber smell in my hair did eventually wash out, thank you for asking) — I trust you have all seen the names of our incoming dragon captains, who will take over judging duties beginning in July. Because, wow. On top of that, we’ve opened the Dragon Emporium, where you will see the Flash! Friday dragons dueling on all sorts of objects (because they are obliging like that); please help yourself to a mug or charm necklace or two, and support the shenanigans here at Flash! Friday, if you’re in the mood. Click on the cutie pies themselves below to check out the Emporium’s offerings.


Ring of Fire! Did you submit stories at Flash! Friday at least three times in May? Be sure to let us know; the Wall will be updated this weekend to reflect the current badge holders (if you sent in a note already, don’t worry; we’ve got your name). Details at the Wall of Flame page. Remember each badge means a chance at a Flash! Friday prize at year’s end. More badges = more chances!


DC2It’s the VERY LAST TIME judging for beloved Dragon Team Two: Captains Mark A. King & Tamara Shoemaker. This team has had far too much fun judging; I know this by the copious amounts of peanut butter and smeared TimTam stains across their results each round. Despite the ongoing Team Two parties, they’ve managed to both deliver fantastically meaty and helpful comments on the winning tales and still write their own stories and still leave loads of comments on others’ stories. Y’all are amazing, and talented, and kind, and selfless, and we are deeply grateful for all you’ve done this past term. THANK YOU. As for you dear draggins, please feel welcome to leave thank you comments on their judge pages (linked above), Twitter, or following your stories here, to let them know how much they are appreciated.      


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: character. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, your protagonist must be the below character type. Of course I don’t need to remind y’all that more than vegetables can be harvested…): 



(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:


Inspection. CC2.0 photo by Brian (Ziggy) Lilioia.

Inspection. CC2.0 photo by Brian (Ziggy) Liloia.

427 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 26

  1. Turnip Truck

    “Calypso Joe, you morbid little troll, are your nearest and dearest ready to roll?”

    My tormenter smirks. Tall, pimply, skinny as a barren sapling, one could almost mistake him for a cadaver. Perhaps, one day, I will.

    “They are wrapped and ready. Mr. Lorne.”

    “Mister, eh? I like that, Joe. Let’s move ‘em out. “

    I wheel out my friends. There are six cadavers. We load them in the delivery truck and I jump in the cab.

    “Dr. Grange will meet us at the farm at noon,” I inform Lorne.

    It is a two hour drive to the rural acreage well off the beaten path. High wire encircles the 2 ½ acres. Security is enhanced.

    We drive thru the guarded gate, submit our paperwork and park at the icehouse.

    “This job gives me the willies, Joe. What about you?”

    He doesn’t really want to know. Still, I give him my well-rehearsed answer.

    “Science benefits! These poor souls will be hard at work even after death. One more inspection and we’ll be certified a fully fledge Body Farm.

    “Still gives me the willies. Let’s get these half dozen stiffs in the cooler.”

    We carry in the dearly departed.

    It is only then that I correct Lorne.

    “Not six, seven.”

    210 words


  2. Mondays
    (210 words)

    She sipped at her coffee, perched above the glass dome while reading the inspector’s report. The farm had passed:
    ‘unusual, probably controversial, never harmful, but significant in production.’
    ‘Fair,’ she thought.
    She looked down at this microcosm of  fruitfulness, surveying the crop.
    She’d been told early on never to name a creature- but she couldn’t help it.
    She had names for them all!
    The green and fertile landscape she’d cultivated clicked and clacked with production. She was satisfied with the subjects, the creatures prolific. This harvest would be plentiful.
    But all knew, a harsh reality- there was always a place for the scythe. Shearing was, at times, critical and trimming always essential. Her wing twitched in accentuation as she contemplated these necessities.
    The construction of such a world had taken many, many hours of toil, and only the very best tools, the very best materials, were used to inspire it.
    She breathed out a tiny flame to heat her now cooling coffee.
    It was time to reap Friday’s harvest.
    The tips of her wings whipped up sparks as they typed at the keyboard. And the creatures in the dome looked on at their flashing screens to see who of them were The Honourable and who The Victorious!

    ( Apologies to all ‘creatures’. Just thought I’d try something different!)


  3. @AvLaidlaw
    208 Words

    The Gray Wolf in Winter

    Lord, it was cold. He dismounted the gelding and left him standing, the vapour from his sweat ghosting in the late afternoon light. The old men said they had it worse back in ’36 but those old patriarchs snug by the fire with their whiskey always said they had it worse like this winter was some moral failing of the young. They never had it worse. Three cattle lost last week.

    He pulled his rifle from its scabbard and followed the wolf trail down to the copse. The snow, thawed and frozen again, crackled under his boots. The shadows of the birch tangled across the snow but the snow over the number four traps was smooth, the wolf tracks veering away round the edge of the copse as if they’d sensed the danger. There was nothing to be done; it was late and Martha would fret.

    As he rode back he sang the forty-sixth psalm but the air was too cold and the words died. The dog-star hung bright in the dusk. The wolves howled and it echoed over this dead country. The wolves were not his enemy and he was not the enemy of the wolves but the winter was the enemy of them both.


  4. Plastic Fantastic.
    @geofflepard 209words
    The man at the lower window wipes his mouth. It could be drool or astonishment. ‘Have you seen this Jonny?’
    Jonny squats next to him. ‘Are they for real?’
    ‘Told you, didn’t I? They’re growing them. Like tadpoles.’
    I let another man squeeze past. He says, ‘Are they actual people?’
    ‘Good as. GMAD. Genetically Modified Animatronic Dolls.’ He taps the glass. ‘Like a shoal of Ken and Barbie clones but with real bits. See? Do you think they do it?’
    Jonny wipes the glass. I really hope it isn’t drool. ‘Says here they grow in amniotic tanks for six weeks. When they’re ready they’re chemically neutered before being homed.’
    I feel sick but can’t move away. Someone taps my arm. ‘You want a look?’
    His gaze is blank. They mean nothing to him. Just toys.
    ‘You ok?’
    Before he can touch me again, I walk away. Ever since I’d heard what the Japanese toy industry had created I knew I had to come. To see for myself. Even from ten feet away through grubby glass I could see this odd floating life and I knew. The adverts call them the ultimate learning tool for the 21st Century but to me they are the children I’ve never had.


  5. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 199

    My Heart was a Pomegranate

    My heart was a pomegranate, arils bursting with young blood. When he plucked me, I was tart with pride yet sweet with curiosity. He promised orchards and open skies; I wanted freedom and summer rain. His hands, blotched crimson, peeled away my unwilling skin, leaving broken leather and regret. He was the first.

    My heart was a pomelo, thicker rind hiding timid flesh. I was not searching when the next came. His lips spoke of sharing cool soil and feeding from the same sun. We needed each other, he said, and who would I find to take me in? I believed him. But his insecurity metastasized, leaves towering until even the heavens were blocked out by green. In the night I fled, uprooted but unchained. He was the second.

    My heart is a peach, soft skin over indomitable core. I find you here in your fields, hands brown and rough with honest work. You have neither stipulations nor manipulations; I am my own and yet yours. When time sucks the juice from my veins, and my flowers fall to gravity, I know you’ll see my soul beautiful. Standing in each others shade, together we’ll fade. You are the last.


  6. Intensive Farming
    (194 words)
    ‘They are sweet.’
    ‘Yes,’ the farmer said. ‘The sweetest, you’ll find round here. Irrigation here is second to none.’
    ‘I have to ask this. Please don’t take it the wrong way. It’s just the type of people we are in all aspects of our life.’
    ‘Go on,’ said the farmer.
    ‘Are they genetically modified? They look bigger, rounder than the crops we’ve seen.’
    ‘Because of the irrigation. Everything you see here. One hundred percent organic. No jiggery-pockery on this farm.’
    ‘Well, then let’s say we go ahead. What now?’
    ‘You uproot whatever ones you want.You pay,  you load them up into your van. Done.’
    ‘Have you any recommendations?’
    ‘Keep them in a cool, dry place at home. Keep them watered. Away from direct sunlight, and you just watch these suckers grew!’
    ‘Terrific. What type of guarantee do we get?’
    ‘Absolutely no money back. Exchange is possible with proof of purchase, if goods are faulty.’
    ‘Well, I think we’ve got ourselves a deal.’
    ‘Glad to hear it. You inspect what’s here, pick what you prefer.’
    The husband and wife smile as each one of  their new cherub-faced crop takes a turn at screaming and bawling at the dark Earth from which they were plucked.



  7. PEOPLE FOOD (210 words)

    “We take the females out and keep them in a different tank. There they fatten up and are used only for reproduction.”

    “How can you tell what sex they are when they are so small? They all look like sardines.”

    “Easy. Like in most species, males are more attractive. They need to be so they’ll be chosen as a mate. See the vibrant colors and patterns?

    “And you say they taste like chicken?”

    “You bet. Put your hand up to the glass and they’ll swim over. They think you’re going to feed them. But don’t tap on it, that scares them.”

    “This one’s waving to me. He seems like he’s trying to tell me something.”

    “Yeah, don’t encourage him though. And don’t get attached to any of them. Remember, this is the food of the future.”

    “But look. He’s writing something in the algae on the side of the tank. Amazing, he’s writing it backwards so I can read it. It says… ‘Sa..ve…me’… Wow, this one’s smart.”

    “They still have human intelligence, but don’t focus on that.”

    “I’ll take this one. But not for food, I’m going to keep him on my desk at work.”


  8. A REAL SHOW by E.F. Olsson
    210 words

    Everyone was gathering around. It was supposed to be a throwaway match but Farmer Jack had the crowd in awe. He had the champ, Cowboy Orson, in a choke hold. He spun Orson around, lifted him up, and dropped him into a massive pile driver. Orson’s head bent back as his head crunched into the ring.

    Farmer Jack bounced up shocked. The crowd fell silent. He surprised himself. No one has ever done that to the champion before. But once it sunk in, the crowd began to roar. They started chanting, “do it again!”

    Jack smiled. He wanted to. Orson just laid there – his eyes were spinning. He was gasping for air. Jack gave into the crowds wishes.

    “What are you doing?” The referee asked.

    “Puttin’ on a show.”

    Jack held Orson up as the crowd cheered on every move. He jumped and drove Orson’s head into the mat again. He stood to the ovation. Orson went pale. His lips were turning blue. The referee gestured to Jack. He quickly laid across Orson.

    “One! Two! Three!” The ref yelled.

    As Jack grabbed the championship belt, he knew he was supposed to lose but as they took Orson off on the stretcher, he showed the crowd just how real wrestling is.


  9. It Don’t look Like No Chicken
    210 words

    “It don’t look like no chicken…” remarked the bemused chef, breathless having evacuated the restaurant with a pace he was unaccustomed to.
    “Nope,” Sayeed, a waiter, added helpfully.
    Three men in total gazed through the broad windows of the downtown Chinese buffet as inside an enraged creature of indeterminate genus ran amok.
    “To be fair Jen, I’d be sore if you’d tried to cleaver my neck,” laughed Sayid – the second waiter who shared a name, if not the propensity for laconic replies, with the first.
    “True,” said Sayeed.
    A crash of silverware and a splatter of Kung Po sauce on the hitherto clean(ish) glass made them all jump back, startled.
    “I knew that I should have stuck with the normal supplier,” Jen the Chef said.
    “Yep,” added Sayeed.
    “I told you that farmer was dodgy,” said the more eloquent Sayid.
    “He was odd looking, but chickens that huge, at that price…”
    “That farmer’s sold you a feathered homunculus!” laughed Sayid.
    At that precise moment, the glass behind him shattered and the angry beast emerged to savage his neck.
    Jen looked on in horror, whilst the first waiter ran wildly into traffic, heading for the opposite sidewalk.
    The ‘chicken’ then crossed the street, presumably to get to the other Sayeed.


  10. Free Range

    Farmer Jones watched the cloud of dust approach. He knew the van would be stuffed full of bureaucrats. He didn’t bother with foreplay.

    “You’re trespassing!”
    A voice shouted back, “We have a warrant to perform an inspection.”
    “And I have a shotgun.”

    A man appeared with his hands in the air, “Mr. Jones, this is a serious matter. If you won’t let my team perform their duties I’ll be forced to restrain you.”

    Jones raised his weapon, but found it increasingly hard to do so. It became heavier and heavier, until it fell to the ground with a thump. He narrowed his eyes, “Bloody wizards! What do you want?”
    “We’ve had reports about mistreatment at your Fairy farm.”

    Jones tried to control the panic in his voice, “I can explain. They just weren’t producing dust like they used to. I didn’t think a few steroids would hurt. How was I supposed to know they’d get too fat to fly? They are fine though, a few laps outside and they’ll slim right up.”

    The gentleman smiled, “An interesting theory, let’s test it.”

    He clicked his fingers and Jones felt his midriff expand rapidly. His knees buckled under the weight and he slumped to the ground.

    “Off you go then. Chop chop.”

    210 words


  11. 210
    The Farm-Hand

    His specimen contained the stand-out most amazing sperm that the clinic had ever tested. All of the genetics tested as perfect, the strength and speed as ‘A’ grade. Doctor Cope stared through the microscope in wonderment. The little white puddle seemed to vibrate with energy, the swimmers wriggling in circles.
    This puddle was so valuable to the clinic that literally every swimmer would be used. His fertilization rate was total, meaning every one of these little wrigglers would become a baby.
    She shook her head, before carefully unclipping the slide and returning it to the holder, back into freeze. The women would start arriving tomorrow, one at a time, joyous at having being chosen as a worthy receptacle for his crop.
    Doctor Cope realised it was time to see him now. Her heels clicked down the corridors of the facility, until she reached security. She got swiped through, and suddenly, there he was. The Farmer. He was a god. Six feet tall, blonde curling hair, rippling muscles and a face fit for a statue. As always, the sight of him made her catch her breath.
    He was clone number three hundred and ten; and the best of the best. She flexed her hand, ready to help farm the next crop.



    The Farmer Sea
    208 words

    ************ Just for fun *********

    The good folk stand on the periphery and try to peer through the smoke‘n’mirrors but all they see are reflections of themselves and the ghost imprints of others.

    They wait for judgment. But judgment takes a long time; sometimes, it is even delivered to the scattered realms during the slumbering Monday hours of the East.

    They sometimes wish they knew what the judges were thinking.

    The folk behind the mirror know such thoughts are dangerous. For they themselves are mostly mystified and often distracted by such things as PB&J sandwiches or where the next caffeine hit is coming from.

    On the streets, the farmer has a sea of talent. Any of them are good enough for selection. They have grown, they have been nurtured and now they are strong, oh so strong. They return every week and long for the Wall of Flame to proclaim their loyalty. So, in the end, the judgment is not so important, ‘tis the wall that counts.

    Behind the mirror, the man is distracted with dogs on his Kindle. The Flame flickers in her eyes, then fades as she realises she’ll have to wait another week to claim the record. In this wait, she leaves him behind. She is always the Soul Survivor.


  13. Farmer Smith’s Marvellous Marrows

    Farmer Smith was the kind of man you scare your children with. ‘Don’t wander off or Farmer Smith will grab you and feed you to his prize marrow!’ Delighted screams, and tickles.

    They wouldn’t go near, though. The farm reeked of manure and rotting vegetables. We wondered if Farmer Smith was fertilising himself along with his crops. His checked shirt strained at the buttons, and his face ripened to tomato-red.

    His marrow always won at the county show, but this year’s was gigantic; a stripy, smug leviathan basking in a straw nest. The judges measured, weighed, and prodded, under the farmer’s watchful eye, and pronounced it a record-breaker.

    The PA system squeaked. ‘This is an amazing specimen. How do you do it?’ The minor celebrity held the microphone out to him.

    He leered and tapped the side of his nose. ‘Ain’t giving away no secrets!’

    ‘Just one little tip..?’

    He considered. ‘Marrows, they don’t like competition. You want to grow a big ‘un, you pinch the others off when they’re small. Let ‘em rot down. So it gets all the goodness.’

    ‘Well, your family must be very proud of you. And your marrow.’

    ‘Ain’t got no family,’ snapped Farmer Smith, and lumbered away.

    205 words


  14. The Strange Rain
    205 words

    It was raining again, and the sky turned the color of a bruise. She rushed to take in the laundry, sheets like prayer flags in the wind. It had been like this for days, now. The fields had an eerie glow at night.

    “You have to leave,” the inspectors said, anonymous in their hazmat suits. “Where’s your husband?”

    “Edgar’s gone, she said, “he went out to mend a fence, and never came back.”

    “Sorry about your husband,” they said. “but you can’t stay here.”

    “I have no place to go.”

    A flicker of compassion, or maybe a trick of the light. “There’s a temporary shelter at the high school.”

    “You don’t understand,” she said.” This is my home, our home. We lived here for 35 years. We were so hoping for a good crop this year. It was such a warm spring, and the rains came just in time for planting– a strange rain, bright as day, and the corn shot up like a rocket.”

    “Mrs. Mitchell, we have to go now.”

    She looked around at the tidy kitchen, the dogs on the porch, whining, the oak trees waving in the wind. The corn had never grown so rapidly. It seemed she could hear it screaming.


  15. The Baby Farmers
    194 words

    Childbirth used to be painful and bloody. Nurses bend down to glance into dark birthing pods. With a gleam of orange light, they say, it’s a boy. That won’t do. Someone made a mistake.

    More seed germinates by the hum of Society’s mantra. Love is equal. Faces perk and shine. It’s a girl. Violet—she’s perfect. Her face gets wiped with a rag and she’s handed spotless to her parents Anne and Susan. What a victory. Countless sperm have been harvested from Anne’s bone barrow, and finally, one took. Welcome, Violet.

    Violet grows. She’s fascinated by the baby farmers. That’s what she wants to be when she gets big. Years later, first day on the job, she glances into a birthing pod. What’s that strange growth between the baby’s little thighs?

    Elder nurses gather and tsk their tongues. That won’t do. Amniotic fluid spills out of the birthing pod, creating a reflective nest for the baby’s tiny body. After a fleshly smack, the baby’s hands clench up by its face and then go still.

    Violet covers her mouth.

    It’s just a fetus, the elder nurses say. And they walk away humming.

    Love is equal.


  16. The Farmers (210 words)

    Nobody understood, in my experience, what it took to cultivate a corpse. I know it seems counter-intuitive — it certainly was to Steve and that’s why he’s no longer with us — but the skill, the precision and the patience that goes into it is unnoticed, like the daily cycle of a sunrise and sunset.

    It’s daily, so we stop noticing it for what it is: a miracle.

    And in that way — Bethany didn’t understand this, either and that’s why she’s no longer with us — cultivating a corpse is its own miracle.

    Occupying space and time is this breathing, living organism and over time, with careful observation and yes, cultivation, we bring it death.

    Sure, other beings help to mature one’s skills, like rabbits, squirrels and gazelles, even, but the real challenge and the artistry comes from bringing death to a human. Because a human brings with it the intangibles; the memories, experiences, aspirations and hopes of life.

    All cultivated into a last whimpering of death. To hold death within your hands is far more powerful than life.

    We have a good team now: Avery, Renee and myself. Gene was another one that couldn’t transition to human cultivation.

    A good team meant we could perform miracles every day.


  17. @colin_d_smith
    200 words
    Title: “Maloraxia”

    “You see it?”

    Despite the polluted outside air, the glass was clear enough to see inside. The roots embedded in the walls were like green tentacles, burrowing into the soil. On the tentacles, Kai could see the brown splotches.

    “It can’t be maloraxia,” he said, “I treated the ground. I sprayed every month. I did everything you’re supposed to do.” Kai quickly brushed away tears.

    “There’s no mistaking it, sir. Sorry.”


    “I don’t need to tell you, Professor,” the man in white said. “You know what happened to the building on Sixth and Norris. Stood for ten years till the maloraxia set in. We had to take it down before it spread to the bakery next door.”

    Kai placed his hand on the brickwork, his fingers gently stroking its rough surface.

    “I’ve had this place for ten years,” he said, a gentle smile forming on his face. “It kept me going after I lost my first home.”

    The white coat man shook his head and sighed with both sympathy and frustration. Genetic architecture seemed such a great idea, but no-one anticipated how quickly structural viruses would develop.

    He gripped Kai’s shoulder. “I’ll make it as painless as possible.”


  18. Sidekick
    “Do you really think it, Ray?”

    “I know it. It’s authentic. I saw the inscription.”

    “So what do we do with the baggage?”

    “You mean with Mr. Orsetti?”


    “We kill him.”

    “And then?”

    “Then we claim the prize as our own.”

    “And his body?”

    “The sewers.”

    “In all my years of harvesting such relics, I have never seen one so perfect. And now it’s in our hands.”

    “What will the museum pay us?”

    “The museum, Richard?”


    “No. Not this one. This one is mine.”

    “But my cut—“

    “Will be your throat if you don’t shut up.”

    “What makes this so valuable anyway, Ray?”

    “What lies within, Rich. What lies within.”


    “Richer than wealth, Rich. It is the grail of our idols.”

    “You mean?”

    “The very one.”

    “But the power it holds—“

    “Will make me all-powerful.”

    “Trust yourself with such value?”
    “Trust myself, I do. Trust you, I do not.”

    “Ray, you—“

    “Fare thee well, Richard. Your friendship, albeit convenient, was rich, but not rich enough.”

    “You’re right in mistrusting. But it is me that will reap the rewards of this relic. Not you. This idol’s power will be harvested as my own.”


    A shot to the head, point blank.


    210 Words


  19. Mark Morris:
    Culling the Herd.
    (220 words)

    The herd seemed restless tonight, she thought. Some of the larger ones had taken to hunkering away in the far corner of the tank, almost as though they knew there was going to be a harvesting. But that could never happen. They were bred to be dumb. And docile.

    Some of the smaller specimens were pressed against the glass, their faces distorted. Like nightmare creatures. It was just as well the tank was sealed; the smells and the noises they made could be quite disturbing sometimes. Incoherent and incontinent. It was a mercy she was bringing to them. A few more hours and another fifty would be gone to a better place. Serving the needs of the greater.

    Alys began to hum to herself, her voice bringing her comfort. It wouldn’t do for her to be shirking. She’d a job to do. She pulled the scan-wand from its holster, its laser arc finding the binary bar tattoo on the brow of the nearest male, Rodney #1872. He was almost a year old: he’d be in the next cull, if the others didn’t euthanize him first. There’d been a growing trend for them to do that, almost as though they were deliberately killing their own before they could be harvested. But that could never happen. There were safeguards to prevent that.


  20. @bex_spence

    191 words

    The trouble with farming was all the blood, he could anesthetize them so the screams were silent but he couldn’t stop the flow of life. The crimson river flooding through his farmhouse, pooling on the floor.

    It got on his trousers, even his favorite socks, the ones that said daddy. That really irked him.

    He did a harvest every Autumn. He’d collect the specimens as summer faded, students and foreign tourists, those that wouldn’t be missed, not for a while at least. Hitchhikers usually, pick them up, quick chloroform and then they were in his sheds, bound in the cattle pens. But he’d picked the wrong one.

    Someone cared about this heart, the lungs and all. Cared enough to come looking, to call the local law. They’d come knocking at his door, routine sweep of the area.

    It was a keyring that had given him away, the small token he’d kept, was going to give it to his young boy. But now they were here in their white suites, ploughing up his farm, harvesting his collection.

    No more crops, no more farm, just an empty room, and a speck of blood.


  21. Soul Harvest

    The restaurant was a front for a Chinese gang. It was full of bodyguards, yet the tough guys ran out when he strolled in.

    “I’m surprised to see you here.” The boss’s voice had a slight tremble.

    “Think of me as a gentlemen farmer, coming to collect my harvest.”

    “You put me in charge, I have it under control.”

    “I am the landowner; you are merely a sharecropper. I planted the soil starting with the night your father visited that prostitute you called mom. I fertilized the fields with drugs and gambling. I weeded the land by driving out churches and bribing the police.”

    “Don’t you mean I did those things for you?”

    “No, I mean I used you to do them, giving you every idea and opportunity. I did it. Not you.”

    The boss put his hand on a gun hidden under the table.

    “Go ahead, shoot me. It will help me with the harvest.” It was one last command given the hireling.

    The bullet passed harmlessly through the farmer, out the glass, and lodged in the wall beside of a thug. The man returned fire, and the harvest began.

    Inside the restaurant, the boss had a neat hole through his head. The police never found a bullet.

    209 Words


  22. Crop Circles
    (210 words)

    Tanaka’s tired tractor trundled through the thicket. Care and pride went into maintaining the flawlessly linear lines and gracefully rounded curves. Viewed from the twinkling heights of heaven, only designs that rivaled the artistry of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel attracted the curious to this obscure piece of planet Earth. Executing the pictures was a science, and Tanaka was in great demand.

    Farmers nurtured their pre-designed crops like mother’s hovering over a newborn, preparing sunlit fields of waving golden grain for sacrifice to the lucrative god of mammon. Pulsars disabled arriving spacecrafts, while hunters gathered on the field’s outskirts, stun guns at the ready. First contact with other worldly visitors had rapidly given way to entrapment and consumption of their surprisingly tender flesh.

    Inspectors observed the bodies through the restaurants window. Only the undamaged gained approval for inclusion in Iron Chef Competition. The rest ended up on the menu. Sweet and Sour Martian orders flew from the kitchen. And forget succulent, beer-fed Kobe beef. Teriyaki Alien Breast with Broccoli soon became the new delicacy.

    Tanaka’s hand froze on the controls, his fingers suddenly unwilling to do his bidding. An eerie sound preceded his elevation to the cloaked vessel. His screams went unheard as the feasting began.


  23. Good Intentions
    199 words

    She walks through the silence, each step puffing dust from the once fertile land. A sign dangles off the broken fence of a former holding pen. “Danger of Death.” She walks on. Death no longer feels dangerous.

    In the beginning, people talked constantly, frantic bursts of words to gather information. “Did you hear what happened to Joanne? Has anyone talked to Peter?” By the third month they tried to build a barrier of hope with words. “The worst is over. They found a cure.”

    No one still alive wastes energy speaking.

    It started with the corn, then the wheat. Some chemical used to kill bugs remained in the food and killed something in the human immune system. By the time the inspections started, millions were infected. Her guilt grew with each death harvested from her good intentions. Saving the farm helped destroy mankind.

    A mile later she reaches the lower field where they buried the first casualties, back when the living still outnumbered the dead. She pulls the weeds blocking the words on the bottom. “Beloved Husband.” She touches the rough wood, feels the cold finality of death in her fingers.

    She loads her last bullet into the gun.


  24. Safety Farm
    210 words

    Come on down to Safety Farm, we’ve got what you need to keep you from harm!

    If toxic fumes have got you down, our purifier’s the best deal around!

    If the zombie horde’s at your front door, you’ll wish you had our P-64!

    If the wild dogs are looking to much, use our grenades before you’re lunch!

    The loudspeaker crackled and fell silent. One of the people in white tossed the unplugged cord aside. Two more of them were restraining a purple-faced Farmer Maximillion.

    “I don’t see why this inspection is necessary! Who gave you the right?” Maximillion demanded.

    “The government gave us the right,” said one of the people in white. Her trousers were exceptionally crisp. She must be in charge.

    “Look here, you. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Farmer Maximillion! I’m the wealthiest man alive!”

    “Please be quiet, sir. Ah, here we are. A Code 480.”

    “What the toxi-zombie is a Code 480?”

    “The leader of Safety Farm should be familiar with the Code.”


    “Code 480: Highly reactive chemicals stored too closely to one another. Take the farmer away, people. The only safety he cares about is the safety of his wallet.”

    The people of Post-Apocalypse would be much safer with this fraud behind bars.


  25. Please Don’t Go (I’ll Eat You Whole)
    210 words

    Joseph Livingston loved his job as an inspector…originally he’d wanted to be a chef but that hadn’t panned out so he’d gone with the next best thing.

    It was almost therapeutic watching the same people who’d turned him away, when he came looking for a job, shaking in their boots at the sight of him except this one wasn’t shaking at all, she was just watching Joseph with a wry smile that twisted her lips into something feral.

    “Mr. Livingston, I was told you had some questions for me?” The woman inquired, her voice a husky murmur that spoke of cigarettes and expensive bottles of whiskey.

    “I wanted to know about your meat supplier?” he prompted and Sofia Lovett lifted her shoulder in a gentle shrug.

    “There’s very little to tell. All the meat in my restaurant comes from my own farm. Every specimen is grown and cared for under the finest conditions until they’re mature enough,” she explained, leaning against the door of the walk in freezer.

    “And you supervise all of that?” Joseph inquired.

    Sophia grinned at him, a quick flash of teeth. “I had a choice between children and my restaurant…”

    Joseph frowned, “I thought you had children.”

    Sophia blinked slowly, “All children grow up, Mr. Livingston.”


  26. For The Dreamers

    You might be surprised to know that it’s lonely here.
    Is it possible to be lonely in a sea of infinite possibilities?
    I like the word “cultivate”.
    It sounds so green and yet I feel like I could slice my fingertips across it.
    I cultivate dreams.
    I plant paper seeds that grow into fully realized moments.
    You have to be careful harvesting them, especially the ones with people, not just colors and sounds.
    Sometimes the people escape, but they’re not real people, they have no further context.
    They’ll wander and stare in at other fledgling dreams, questions in the eyes until they begin to curl at the edges.
    Dream Farm sounds like a nightmare.
    Maybe it is.
    I saw a quote on a poster once, it said “These are hard times for the dreamers”.
    I laughed out loud.
    The dreamers are mostly gone.
    It’s hard times for the dream makers.
    When I was young I used to wake up tired from my dreams. Night hours spent running and building in the realms of the unreal.
    Now people don’t sleep right without their dreams.
    Under my magnifying glass I see a paper seed that says “Mother, raspberries, triumph”.
    I plant it, fingers stinging, and wait. Alone.

    205 words


  27. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 209

    Birds of a Feather Must Stick Together

    Nila sucked her teeth. Old Clemmons was in the rutabagas. If she got her .22, she could clip him from the porch. That’d scare him away.

    “I done told you ta git outa my crop, ya tick! If’n I hafta tell you agin, it’ll be the bullet what speaks.”

    He wandered toward her turnips.

    “Son of a…”

    From above the hearth, Nila snatched the long rifle, and then stomped toward the fields. Hickey Clemmons was nibbling on a rutabaga leaf, staring at the distance.

    “Git that outa yer mouth for ya make yerself sick.” She knocked it from his weathered hands. “Why ya hafta do this?”

    Clemmons worked his toothless jaw up, down, up, down. He’d been handsome: eyes blue as cornflower, hair like buckwheat. Now he looked like porridge. They both did.

    “When did we git ugly?”

    Clemmons chewed.

    “Don’t answer. Let’s get ya to yer people.”

    She hooked his arm, thin as split rail, and steered him to the house. A dust cloud hailed the aides from St. Dymphna’s Hospital coming to scoop him up. Clemmons moaned, his eyes, pleading. Unease slunk through Nila’s stomach.

    “I hear ya…”

    When three men in suits white as Sunday disembarked, Nila was alone, cradling a loaded .22 and a lie.


  28. The Inspector Takes the…
    210 words
    Will you finish already? Three hours has got to be enough time to dissect my day-to-day operations and make asinine decisions. Stalking my employees, hoping to bust somebody picking up an escapee blueberry without cleaning their hands. Pffft.

    Five times in the cooler. Five. Seriously? You expecting apples to jump out of the dang lugs onto the floor? You do know they don’t fly, right? Hhhhhhh.

    Bombastic peacock believing mindless blather about farmers being too stupid to comprehend state regulations. I’ve got two Bachelor’s Degrees and a Master’s from Cornell. And you’ve got? A couple of agricultural courses and two years’ experience? Rrrrrr.

    I should dump some apricots so you can mark something off and leave. There’s dry rot on my Jonamacs and pumpkins to irrigate. I don’t have hours while you evaluate water temperature three times and pore over my shop seeking self-populating mouse turds! Gahh!!

    Ten more minutes. That’s all I’m giving you. If you’re not done in ten minutes. I’m leaving you to…

    “Oh, yes, Mr. Roberts? You’re all set? We only missed on 2 points? We’ll fix those immediately. Hope you’ve enjoyed your visit! Too much of my time? Well, we can’t be too careful about creating healthy environments. Okay, now, drive safely!”

    Supercilious, socially-awkward anal-retentive….


  29. The Farmer’s Fury

    202 words

    “Farmer?” Jin uttered the word as if he had bitten a lemon. “Farmer!? You know well I am not a farmer!” His voice echoed off the walls.

    The little man before him dropped his clipboard and took a hasty step backwards as if frightened Jin might breathe fire. “W-w-well sir, I, um—“

    “Silence! How many times must I hammer it into your thick skull that I…AM…NOT…A…FARMER!”

    “We’ve been over this before, according to the agricultural bureau; your work is considered farming.” The little man spoke quickly, almost unintelligibly.

    “The agricultural bureau,” Jin began in a soft growl, “…The agricultural bureau can go hang! If you come in here one more time to tell me I need a permit, I’ll throw you out myself! Do you want me to do that? Do you? Do you!?” Before Jin had even finished his threat, the little man was outside running down the street.

    Still fuming, Jin stormed through the factory to the processing unit. Two workers were already monitoring the machine. One of them looked up as Jin approached and said, “Algae production is running at maximum, sir.”

    “Excellent,” Jin responded. He was an algae harvester. Who had ever heard of an algae farmer?


  30. The Souls of Trees

    The buyers stared at the last of the acorns enclosed in the pen. Rising from each was a wispy, humanoid figure veiled in green light. They flickered as they danced to hidden music. Only the chosen could hear the music this far from the forest.
    “Got them new from the forest just yesterday,” the tree-soul farmer said.
    “They look…” one man began, teeth chattering. His words curled pure white in the air. The farmer struggled to read his lips.
    “Sickly,” the second added.
    “They become strong when planted,” the farmer said, opening the pen.

    The figures danced around them to the music that charmed people into the woods with fairy lights, will-o’-the-wisps, and wilis that made you forget about a world beyond the forest. But the town needed their light to survive winter. They were hope.

    “I’ll take this one.”
    The farmer sent the fluttering figure sleep with a few words and wrapped the acorn in a cloth. He took the last acorn for himself and planted it in the corner of his room, where it flickered and danced and grew into a strong sapling. Where it lit the long dark of winter. Where it sang to him of spring every night until he fell asleep.

    Words: 210


  31. These are the Days of the Harvest
    Word Count: 206

    “Lights in working order?”


    “Band will arrive at 4:00?”


    “Sound check is at 5:00?”


    “What about tomorrow? All the speakers are lined up and confirmed? No Cancellations?”

    “You need to stop worrying. The whole event is planned and accounted for and even if something goes wrong…”

    “Nothing can go wrong!”

    “Ahem… even if something changes in the schedule, you just have to trust that things will work out for the better. Deborah, you have done all the work. You have labored and toiled over this event. We’ve prayed over it and we’ve prayed for the kids that will be attending. Now you just need to trust that He will do the rest.”

    Deborah took a deep breath, a hard task considering she had a lump of doubt the size of a peach pit in her throat. She could never seem to shake the doubt; it was always whispering in her ear all her shortcomings. But, she trusted her calling and even though the voice inside told her she was in the wrong profession, that she would fail, she trudged forward. She would faithfully pray and work hard and no wall would stand in her way.

    “The band is here.”

    “OK. Let’s get this revival started.”


  32. Super Cows
    (210 words)
    After the blizzard of 2019 killed his whole herd, and left him on the brink of losing everything, farmer John Hambly had a brilliant idea: he’d raise cows that were impervious to disease. Never ate expensive feed. Never froze to death. And his new herd would be good for the consumer. Their beef would be naturally now calorie and low fat.

    He named his new breed vacca invisibis

    His neighbor Pete, who could see John’s pastures across his fence, thought John might be a little changed after the catastrophic loss. His wife Sue had left him that spring, too, fed up with being a rancher’s wife in the middle of nowhere.

    “You sure you’re okay there, buddy?” Pete asked.

    “Never better,” said John, afraid the neighbors would discover his profitable new secret.
    It was only when it came time to transport the cattle to market that John encountered his first obstacles. Government inspectors could be royal pains in a rancher’s hind end. All they cared about was dotting their i’s and covering their a’s.

    “Mr. Hambly, we have a problem with your latest shipment for auction,” the head inspector said, shifting from one foot to the other.

    “We can’t find your cows.”

    “That’s because they’re invisible,” said John, exasperated.


  33. ‘Ole Blue

    “So where exactly are you off to?” he asked.
    “Can you ask me without the tone?”
    “When did it become okay for you to talk to your father this way?”
    “Dad, don’t start.”
    “I suppose it’s too much to ask—“
    “Oh, God, not again about the farm.”
    “Well, I just thought that—“
    “Dad, nobody does this anymore. You’re the only one that sees the point.”
    “The point?”
    “Yes, the point. It’s boring.”
    “Dad, it’s the same thing everyday. You stand watch over them. You make sure they get enough water and light. You watch them chew and crap and mate and fight.”
    “Well, there’s a little more to it than that.”
    “What? The whole divine father thing?”
    “They need guidance.”
    “They don’t. There’re seven billion of them. They do their own thing. They make a mess; they clean it up. So it goes. You’re the only one that believes there’s more to it than that.”
    They sat for a moment and watched ‘Ole Blue’s gentle rotation.
    “So what are you gonna do?”
    “I don’t know. Not this.”
    The father nodded slightly.
    “You okay for money?” he asked.
    “Well, if you’re offering.”

    (196 words)


  34. @stellakateT
    204 words

    The Others

    Swinging on the old field gate, its hinges squealing like a pig off to slaughter, I asked what it meant. Grandpa pointed at it with his gnarled, tobacco-stained finger, the tip missing where he’d caught it in a rabbit trap.

    “The others are coming”

    The crop circle was attracting attention that Grandpa didn’t want so in the middle of the night he flattened it with the old tractor and set fire to the stubble. The sirens of the fire engine disturbing the night owls, when questioned he denied everything muttering “An act of God”

    I watched the men in pristine white uniforms inspecting the tanks. We’d fed them, kept them clean even sang to them when they looked sad. I prayed to the memory of Grandpa. Our family honour was at stake. We had to get the certification else the tanks would be forcibly emptied, they would die and we’d be destitute. The farm closed, Grandpa turning in his cryogenic tank.

    The inspectors quizzed them, their faces begging to be asked if they wanted to go home. We all knew that would never happen. We knew their story. Brave people on a one way ticket to Mars. They were the others, our food supply.



    Brian S Creek
    208 words

    Three Asian gentlemen have been window shopping for a good fifteen minutes now. While my ad girls dance their dance for them, I stay behind the counter, reading the paper, being all patient. Like Papa used to say, ‘let ‘em come to you.’

    Eventually they build up the courage and enter the shop.

    “Afternoon, gentlemen,” I says. “Anything I can help you with?”

    They confer like they’re on a quiz show before the short one in the middle speaks up. “We like to buy some women.”

    I grin because my bank balance is about to get bigger. “You’ve come to the right place. Please, follow me.”

    For some reason I bow because it seems like the thing to do. Oddly enough, they all bow back. I take ‘em through to the back and then on down to the basement. Hunching over the keypad, I enter my old man’s birthday, opening the door to the farm.

    Lining both sides of the dingy room are twelve bio pods. Each one contains a synthetic woman, some still in the early stage of accelerated growth. My beauties.

    “Gentlemen,” I says. “You can take off the self, or order from scratch.”

    That’s when the short one utters my two favourite words.

    “How much?”


  36. Night Office

    206 words


    As Brother Telor waited for his congregation to settle, he breathed in the night air, inhaling the scent of freshly-turned soil, a perfume far more fragrant than any holy incense.

    This farm was his church, not the unfeeling stone cloisters below. It had its own rhythm, its own rituals and it was this rich earth he truly worshipped, not a dead man on a cross. Tonight he would give thanks to the Gods and repay them for their blessings.

    A bell for the call to Vigils rang in the distance. The monks would soon be on their knees.

    Telor’s offerings lay silent behind the slatted sides of the crate in which they had been transported. He gestured to Vail to bring the scythe forward, its sacred edge glinting in the light of an expectant moon whilst Ward slid back the bars of the wooden prison and hauled its occupants out.

    And still the bells tolled, lonely and lost.

    The three men, stumbling and disoriented, fell to their knees in front of Telor.

    “Brother?” said one, sudden hope in his eyes.

    “Have no fear,” said Brother Telor with a gentle smile. “Tonight, I will lead the prayers.”

    He raised his scythe in benediction. “Lord have mercy …”


  37. Josh Bertetta
    209 Words

    “This carpaccio is absolutely divine,” she declared, holding her flute of Dom Pérignon 1921.
    Adjusting his mask, Annibale agreed.

    “So what are you supposed to be? A lamb? Don’t you love the Italian theme? I’ve been waiting for him to do Italian.” She sipped her champagne and glanced across the ballroom. “Aren’t his balls the best?”

    “Would you excuse me?”

    Annibale invited only the cream of society’s cream. Those with class, grace. The refined of the refined. And he’d never served so many.

    His parties made Jay Gatsby’s look like sweet-sixteens; his home turned William Randolph Hearst’s into a duplex.

    He exited the ballroom and descended two flights of stairs to the prep area. Servants plated the steak tartare. Others draped the salads with strips of prosciutto sliced bible-paper thin. He crossed the sprawling kitchen to his private kitchenette where he and only he presided over the night’s main course: osso bucco.

    Three intruding cooks hunkered shoulder to shoulder over the ovens.

    “Qué tipo de carne es esto?”

    “No lo sé.”

    “No me gusta…”

    Annibale cleared his throat and closed the door.

    They turned.

    “Lo siento señor.”

    The one the media called “The Farmer” (because, according to the coroner, he used a scythe) smiled.

    Next time he’d serve Mexican.


  38. Evolution
    210 words

    “Mary! Jane! Come here!” Amnesia fretted under the afternoon sun. Her seedlings were missing and after last year’s slash-and-burn by the men in blue – she had reason to be concerned.

    There had been a backpacker earlier and images of her babies, plucked by some hiker chasing a high, spun her into a panic.

    “Mary! Jane!”

    What they needed was a proper farmer. She had managed to plant her seedlings and watch them grow. But she needed help, someone to monitor the grounds and nutrient their water; someone who could make her babies even grander than the sun alone.

    It’s impossible though, their plant family were the “villains.”

    Then she heard it, a chant from down the mountain: “Legalization!”

    Excitement floated up the hill with each breeze. Heavy footprints followed and she still couldn’t find her babies. Her leaves reached out for them as a boot trampled her friend. She screamed their names as greedy hands ripped up her neighborhood.

    She awoke, replanted, under artificial light; the sun gone but her roots full of proper nutrients.

    “Good morning, mama,” Mary said.

    “Welcome to our new home,” Jane greeted.

    There were men in white spraying them with mist. The farmers had found them and now, they may never see the sun again.


  39. You Know You’re Singing this Song…
    197 words

    Old Mack Donald – he had a farm. He’d inherited it from his father, who had it from his – and so on and so forth back to the first Donald to set foot in the country. The chains of tradition had bound Mack to the land for longer than he’d drawn breath.

    “The Donald Men always tilled the soil,” he’d say with his soft drawl to anyone listening. “And we always tended to the beasties. I didn’t know no different.”

    But Mack was old – and Mack was tired. And, above all, Mack was sick of life surrounded by the cacophony of brays, snorts, peeps, moos and oinks from the assembled livestock. At any time, day or night, there were animals sounding off. Sometimes they were panicked over an errant shadow. Sometimes, especially in the spring, they were busy finding a mate to continue the cycle of life for the farm.

    And sometimes, Mack swore – they made noises simply to piss him off.

    So Mack sold the farm to a huge conglomerate, and slipped into clean, crisp baker’s whites. His bread is the best in 5 counties.

    Old Mack Donald sold his farm – to knead a bit of dough…


  40. @firdausp
    What You Sow…
    (210 words)

    They come in twos; always in twos-The Inspectors.
    Their silver wings shimmering in the moonlight as they land lightly on his windowsill. Without a sound they slip into his room.
    Standing at the foot of his bed they give him a shake.

    “Wake up!” one of them says in a loud voice.

    He wakes up with a start. Terrified- he almost screams.

    “Do not be afraid” one reassures him. “We come to inspect the harvest.”

    “What harvest? I’m no farmer”

    They smile,with a knowing look.

    “You are all farmers, ploughing through life. Sowing seeds of your actions and inactions. It is time for the harvest.”

    Suddenly he is transported to a godown. There are piles of sacks filled with grain.
    One inspector goes to a pile and grabs a handful.

    “Grains of conceit! Look how the insects leave them hollow”

    “Here, look a sackful of greed. Rotting away!”

    They start noting down as he stands there, head hanging in remorse.

    “Lies! Plenty of sacks here full of waste”

    They keep counting and writing.

    Suddenly he’s back in his bed alone. Relief floods through him. Just a dream!

    A flash of memory…his sunday school teacher saying, “What you sow…so shall you reap!”


  41. Stories in Camp VI
    by Katrina Ray @kraysaulis
    168 words

    I told them I wasn’t one. I’m a farmer, not a madman. I’m not plotting and breaking laws. I’m just a farmer.

    They said it didn’t matter. My eyes looked right. My skin looked right. I could be one.

    So they sent in the inspectors. Of course they didn’t find anything. They tried though. They checked every corner of my establishment. They opened every oven, looked in every closet. The more they looked the angrier they got, as though my innocence somehow undermined them.

    As though not being the criminal was the wrong thing.

    And in the end, even though they didn’t find anything, they took me anyway. Because they can. Because after all these years too many people still back down.

    One day they’ll come for them, though. One day it’ll be their turn. First it was skin color, then eyes, then religion. Eventually it will be them. Enough people locked away, they won’t be the majority forever.

    And they’ll wish they had spoken up for me.


  42. The Turn of Your Hand
    (210 words)
    Rachael Dunlop @rachaeldunlop

    ‘Gino, come look at the new store front.’
    The bakers gathered round, peering through the narrow brass-rimmed windows.
    ‘Why’d they make ’em so you had to work so hard to see the goods, eh?’
    Gino shrugged. ‘Beats me.’ He was looking at the marble, the fine-milled thin-veined marble. He felt a twitch on a thread of memory deep in his DNA, the memory of his ancestors who’d farmed marble from Italian hills. ‘All sorts of farming,’ his Papa would say. ‘If you get it from the land, you farmed it. Always plenty to be had from under your feet.’

    Not much farming done in Brooklyn, though, nor land either, though Gino’s wife grew herbs in a window box and tried to keep a lemon tree alive in a pot. He didn’t know why she bothered.

    Next morning, far behind the cool marble facade, the bakers worked in the hell-hot kitchen. Gino took the pastry for a cannoli and with a deft turn and a pinch shaped it into a horn. A cornucopia. He filled it with sweet cream, a strawberry hidden in the curved end. He’d take that one home for his wife. Sometimes plenty isn’t under your feet but in the turn of your hand.


  43. Do You Think They’ll Survive
    (210 words)

    “So I saw myself back in the village” Santi said as they opened the creaky farm gate. “You know, I’ve not gone back since I started to work here.”

    “So?” Akin replied, and increased his pace, failing to mask his irritation at his co-worker’s need for attention.

    “I saw myself in the middle of the market, at dawn, and there was no one else there. Suddenly, a man naked but for a red cloth covering his loins started to chase me with a long whip. This is not good. It is never good to see Sokoti. What do you think?”

    “Santi, I’m not Joseph.” Akin moved closer to the culture bays and crouched.

    “What is happening?”

    Akin took off his cap and slapped it against his palm. “The growth charm is not working.”

    “I’m scared Akin. Sokoti is the spirit of the dead.”

    “They are starting to go yellow, like the last batch the harvesters brought. Do you recall what Oga said he’ll do to us if these limbs die too?”

    “Sokoti is a nasty spirit. I need to go home.”

    “For god’s sakes, get a grip. Look at the limbs.”

    “Do you think they’ll survive.”

    “No. But that’s the wrong question. You should be more worried about our survival.”


  44. Irresistible Inspections

    Farmer knows the score. The chevron incision with midline extension – anterior approach; they were at pains to confirm – has healed fully now. Nephrectomy had preceded it, running the length of his front lower ribs and up under the arm pit – the so-called “big cut” – taking a number of days in post-op recovery. The ridges and puckers are numerous now – discolouring once flawless flesh. They multiply with time. Some days, Farmer keeps count – between the distraction provided by the lesser pain of the poking and prodding. On the others, time blurs. Then, the numbers increase without prompting – visible only in the aftermath. Morphine proves a formidable conquering friend against the multiplying, lengthy pink puckers – though sometimes Farmer swears there are more by the time he chances to check. Sometimes, he isn’t sure. Not any more.

    Farmer counts – a solitary inspection. The pod opposite stands empty now; bereft of Harvest’s form. Farmer saw it pre-removal – the angry zigzag across the sternum and up towards the neck. Harvest doesn’t care though; not now.

    The other cells have been without occupants longer. Harvest and Farmer alone exchanged glances – opposite, occasional – before Harvest’s removal. Now, Farmer remains – until the new crop.

    Farmer knows the score. Time for final inspection.


    (210 words)


  45. Lobster Farm
    210 words

    Ok, the squicksuits are one size, so just grab one.

    There’s another locker room for end of day. Once you’re on the farm floor you’re not allowed back in here. Everything’s Code 8 now because of lobster flu stuff. Siobhan will move your clothes and you get them after the decontam shower.

    So, squicksuit. Then into the tanks! The Farmer watches from that tower. When she’s gone you can slack off, but don’t piss in the tanks. Not that you could, through these new suits. Oh! I forgot to show you the catheter attachment. Shoot. Well, tomorrow.

    Mostly you’re breakin’ up fights and scoopin’ up molted skins. The Robo-Lobsters prevent most fights, with super-secret alpha-male piss The Farmer developed. Lobsters piss at each other to communicate—from their eyes! But Robo-Lobsters are hard core and will shank a dude if he pisses too aggressive. You’re just backup.

    As you wade through, scoop the skins and throw ‘em in that chute. They’re processed for lobster food, which they totally eat in the wild so don’t worry.

    What else… egg collection happens in Kelly’s sector. She calls them “lobster seeds” so, you know, just laugh at her joke.

    Kelly—I think she’s in love with the lobsters. Ha! Maybe I am, too.


  46. The Reaping Sowing Thing
    A.J. Walker

    First Saturday of the month meant ‘Date Night’ – Ken and Sue were dressed to impress as always.

    Ken took a brief look at the choices on the ostentatious menu, noting that it was unchanged.

    After the correct time Jon came over, bowing slightly at Ken.

    “Good to see you again. Can I take your order Mr Ken?”

    “My usual please. Sue?”

    Sue looked at Ken, the waiter and then back to the menu; the same dance every time.

    “The same.”

    Ken smiled.

    “Why not? It’s the best on the menu in the best restaurant in the city. It’s my beef, my vegetables – my blood and toil.”

    Sue giggled behind her hand knowing Ken only got his hands dirty with printer ink these days – or with Sue.

    The wine waiter showed a selection of new world wines and Ken went for the dearest. He didn’t know his wines; he didn’t like them. But this was date night – nothing but the best.

    Moments later their table was empty. In so much as the two lovers had dived beneath it.

    The maître d’ was looking non-plussed as a woman wearing muddy wellington boots and a face of thunder gesticulated wildly. Ken’s wife was evidently not happy; and neither, right now, was Ken.

    (210 words)



  47. The Ties That Bind
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    210 words

    When grandfather was a boy, he crouched for hours in the fields, watering the rice paddies to make sure his family was fed.

    When father was a young man, he crouched for hours in the grasses, shielding his siblings from the bullets whizzing by.

    When I was a boy, I refused to crouch, refused to bend for the old ways.

    I didn’t care about farming, didn’t care about tradition. I didn’t care about anything but myself.

    My grandfather died in those rice fields, hands gnarled, knees perpetually bent.

    My father died before I ever knew him, victim of a village raid that didn’t distinguish between enemy and innocent.

    I wasn’t going to be them, my ancestors, faded like yesteryear’s photographs.

    I wasn’t. My pride said no.

    Until I looked into mother’s eyes, those weary eyes aged beyond her years.

    Until I felt my sisters’ hands in mine, as they looked to me for support, for safety, for sustenance.

    I crouch down today, inspecting these chicken feet, my chickens, arguing their worth to the butcher beside me. And I’ll do it again, and again, and again.

    I shall pay homage to the family that came before me, their sacrifices, their struggles, their victories, their defeat.

    I understand now.

    I am proud.


  48. Emily Clayton
    206 words

    Down in the Pumpkin Patch

    The mysterious munching hooligan was at it again. Bertie stood in front of his pumpkin plot, ghastly evidence littering the moist loamy soil. Small tiger-orange autumnal globes, cracked, flesh and seeds spilling fibrous life.

    He glanced at his sheepdog, Violet. “Didn’t you see this?”

    Violet just cocked her head. This was not her specialty. She knew sheep. Ryeland sheep. What did she know about pumpkins?

    For two weeks now, Bertie had tried to catch the culprit. Trip wires. Hidden cameras. Nothing worked. It was like faeries were working in union with this late-night muncher.

    Thick parallel gouges bit deep into the rounded shells. Strangely, the vandal always avoided the largest pumpkins.

    Bertie wandered down the rows, noting the prints, the shuffling drag. He’d suspected badger, but he knew the prints didn’t fit. The gouge resembled teeth marks, but it wasn’t like any badger bite he’d seen. Badgers often ate acorns. Why didn’t it take the poisoned bait?

    He returned that night, 6 p.m. sharp, to a sheltered crevice with Violet. Just downwind of the garden, his torch perched on the damp ground.

    Muffled movements. Rapid shuffles.

    He waited. Patience was his specialty.


    A large, scruffy man wearing a badger suit and fake teeth stared back.


  49. Heirloom Produce
    210 words

    I clasp my hands behind my back. Liu squints through the quarantine glass at what look like two giant knots of rotting gingerroot.

    “From your grandmother’s fields, mei-mei?” Liu asks.

    They’re “Grandmother’s” fields even though Laolao died before last harvest.

    “Pushing up like white radishes,” I say. We grow only soybeans, so I knew something was up.

    “What seeds did you use?”

    “Heirlooms.” The seeds Laolao, with her dying breath, made me swear to use in the next planting.

    “The hail got to them.” Li poked at the pane, indicating the pits perforating each specimen from last month’s freak storm.

    Too many freak things can devastate a whole year’s work: blight, stemrot, thrips. Laolao could triumph over anything. I like to believe I’ve inherited her toughness, but I’m just an ugly third daughter. Laolao found use for me, though. I could haul bales and keep our deaf buffalo from furrowing the fields in curlicues.

    What keeps me white-knuckling is the other one. The one replanted in the greenhouse, away from hailstones and inspectors. A specimen as hardy as an old woman who refused to move to the city with the rest of the family.

    I know I should be concerned–like Liu is–but I find myself gunning for her.


  50. **It Happens
    200 Words

    Three figures stared into the lowest glass window. Reflected in the rectangular openings, the hustle and bustle of the New York City rush hour continued behind them. All three wore matching starched white uniforms.

    One crouched. “How did he get in there?”

    A second joined the lower viewpoint of the first. “Don’t know.”

    The third man, the older one, scratched his head knocking the starched cap to a rakish angle. Frustration filled his face. “Is he dead?”

    “No, door was broken, and he was in there – just sleeping.”

    “Did you call the cops?”

    “I’ve never had to call the police on a napper before. Beside the door, he didn’t break anything. Safe wasn’t touched, but they’re on their way.”

    “Let’s get back to the donuts. Customers will be here soon.”


    “In an unrelated story, an overall-clad man was found in a downtown bakery, sleeping between the kolache counters and donut shelves. In the early morning hours, employees arrived to a shattered front door, and muddy foot prints leading to the display cases.

    “When authorities arrived, they found no additional damage, and nothing stolen. After officers were finally able to wake the young farmer, they asked why. His answer?



  51. Farm of the Future
    206 words, @pmcolt

    In the earliest days of humankind, primitive farming relied on good fortune and favorable weather. Families toiled in dusty fields under the harsh sun to scrape by. My colleagues and I stride proudly down the marble corridor in our white uniforms. Most of our parents were farmers. We too are farmers, of the most crucial crop.

    Raising a child’s mind is too important to be left to chance. To the inexperienced parent. To the untrained teacher. Modern farming techniques produce a great leap forward in yields. The government’s best instructional technicians labor to ensure a fertile learning environment. No child left behind.

    Row upon row of students float motionless in their sensory deprivation tanks, stacked floor to ceiling. Ten thousand impressionable minds, isolated from all outside influence, carefully controlled and monitored 24/7/365 for optimal educational opportunity. Never any variation. Only perfect consistency.

    Today’s biology lesson: crustaceans. Holographic lobsters scuttle above the students’ faces as they look on, captivated. A nearby osmotic learning group absorbs a lesson in 20th century automotive technology. As we check the flow of nootropic drugs into their veins, I smile to see these children flourishing. Thanks to my colleagues’ dedication, this year’s crop of minds will be the best yet.


  52. Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
    -Maven Alysse

    “What’d you do?” Tan crouched to look into the tank, expression one of horrified fascination.

    “Increased their size by 200% using a growth serum. Now they can cover more ground.” Lee rocked back on his heels.

    “Will this work?” Bale rubbed his chin. “It’s radical. We don’t know what repercussions may occur.”

    Lee snickered. “You worry too much. All they do is areate and mix the soil, making it perfect for crops.” He smiled, proudly. “We’ll be the first earthworm farmers in the world. People will beat down our doors wanting our product. What could possibly go wrong?”

    “What’d you do?” Tan crouched, hiding behind a crate, a horrified expression on his face.

    “The… the serum should have just made them larger. This shouldn’t have happened.” Lee rocked back on his heels.

    “This didn’t work,” Bale rubbed his face. “The radiation caused any attempts to destroy to simply makes more.”

    Lee grimaced. “Soil now gets lost during even a light breeze. The earthworms absorbed all the nutrients crops need; nothing is growing.” He smiled, sickly. “Farmers everywhere are at a loss. People are calling for our heads. This all went so terribly wrong.”

    (word count: 207)


    WC = 207 (06-05-15)

    Out of the hanging hectare climbed Saula, over the retaining wall and through the sluiceway. She wetted her thoughtful brow with the water-cupped hand of one who pours over her litter of greenery as if they were the people.

    “Saula, the Wise One arrives and beckons you.”

    “She can wait. My verdant bairns of the tier need last minute tending.”

    “Come to me, Saula of the soil! Your skills in nurturing need be cast abroad. You shall wear the soles of the farmer of people from now on.
    “You shall steward the crops of youth. Your gentle ways shall turn the weed to flower and the twig to fruit. Your teachings shall inhibit the blight that rots the ends of people. Your manner shall not overturn the soil exposing it to drought; but shall harbor the soul with mounds of protection by hand and heart.”

    “Wise One, you farm large responsibilities to me. I shall wear the mantle with respect and walk in your soles with your soul at heart. Please tell me other women and men shall share this assignment.”

    “I place my hands above your head, Saula, and your raiments of nature shall give you the authority to choose other stewards of soil and soul.”


  54. On the Job

    “Well? Where are my eggs?”

    The boys shrunk into the doorway, their white uniforms streaked with grime.

    “Coon kem,” Jordy mumbled, staring at the floor.

    “What? Speak up!”

    His eyes flicked to his younger brother, then he squared his shoulders and notched up his chin. “We couldn’t get ’em.”

    “And why not?”

    The boys exchanged glances. “We ain’t big ’nough,” Brady piped up.

    “Aren’t,” I snapped, then sighed. “Come on, I’ll show you again.”

    Brady clutched Jordy’s apron. The older boy had paled, and his eyes had doubled in size.

    “You can watch from outside,” I relented, shaking my head. “Now go!” Seconds later, the boys reached their positions by the fence, peering through the slats. Seeing them, a couple more of the farmhands made their way over, feigning disinterest but throwing looks my way.

    Iridescent wings flapped as I entered the mammoth barn, and I paused until they stilled. It didn’t take long for my beauties to settle. I clicked my tongue three times, lifting my hand to pat the head closest to me, then untied the bag at my waist and moved toward one of the piles of shining, delicate orbs.

    Awed murmurs drifted toward me as I collected my dragons’ eggs.

    (204 words; @AriaGlazki)


  55. Failure the Thrive
    210 words

    Tilling. The soil should be rich and fertile.
    Fertile, check. The little wand-window shows a fruitful blue line (cheap-ass condoms). Rich, not so much. Two jobs barely cover rent on a single.

    Sowing. Fresh seeds should be gently integrated into the soil.
    There is no mat-leave for wage-workers. Sweet-talking and favor-pulling gets me two weeks. They say I’m lucky she already sleeps through the night. With only fourteen days to be with her, I stay awake to watch her little chest rise and fall.

    Watering. Maintain moist soil with a frequent fine spray.
    She wails all the way home from daycare and into the evening. I sing myself hoarse over “Mr. Moon”. My milk’s dried up. Oh, sweetie, Mommy’s exhausted. Please, just go to sleep.

    Fertilizing. Early fertilization ensures the sprouts have enough nutrients.
    It’s possible to have a six-month migraine. The ladies at the center say she smiles sometimes, but at home the crying is constant. Must be colic. She’s still pretty small. The doctor gave me supplements to add to her formula.

    Harvesting. Watch carefully to catch crops just before peak maturity.
    I got a cake, but she doesn’t seem interested. Not in the stuffed raccoon, either. I guess, she’s still too young to appreciate stuff like that.


  56. @ceckybonway
    210 words

    The Fall of Man

    “It has to be our error, Tim. Has to be.”

    Tim looked once more at the lab results. Every week for the past five weeks, he and Sam had sampled DNA from the five closest Domes. This week’s results were no different: all of the children in their sample had the same father.

    “Please tell me that we’re doing something wrong, man. If it’s all the same dude, why didn’t the Scanners notice? And how many of the Domes could he have breached? And what does that mean for the future of human-kind?”

    Tim shuddered at this last question. What, indeed. All those years of careful planning since the near-extinction could be undone. All that time spent in labs determining the best way to keep the population going without risk of incestual deformities would be for naught. In 40 years, they successfully grew the surviving 500 people to the now 10,000+ population using their careful propagation system. Contaminating the Domes with the same DNA could literally mean their doom.

    Reluctantly, Tim looked up from the results. No, they did everything right. The only thing their data indicated was that the prophecy was true. The Farmer was here, sowing the oats that would bring about the arrival of the final Reaper.


  57. Knaves All Three (209 words)

    They stare haplessly at the in-wall ovens that failed to fire yet again. There was always trouble, always excuses at this restaurant.
    Rub-a-dub-dub, three fools in a tub…
    Yet another Friday had arrived, as had the farmer with his delivery per their contract. With him was a load of produce, meat and poultry, all at a price that would scarcely feed his family and provide for the next growing season.
    And who do you think they be?
    “Greetings,” he calls as he enters the kitchen door.
    Grunts are the only responses.
    The eldest, who is standing, finally glances his way. “You’ll have to come back. We can’t open today.”
    “The delivery will be ruined in the trek home and back again. It can go in your icebox until tomorrow.”
    The butcher, the baker, the pompous decision-maker.
    The eldest turns and strides to the farmer. “You’ll take it back and we’ll pay only for what we can use.”
    The farmer nods, stepping back toward the door and his waiting cart. “Careful, cousin, it seems the gas’s still on.”
    His cousin whips around to face the ovens as the farmer swiftly drags the metal door shut behind him, scraping the ground and catching a spark.
    Turn them out, knaves all three.


  58. Reblogged this on The Mom Who Runs and commented:
    They stare haplessly at the in-wall ovens that failed to fire yet again. There was always trouble, always excuses at this restaurant.
    Rub-a-dub-dub, three fools in a tub…
    Yet another Friday had arrived, as had the farmer with his delivery per their contract. With him was a load of produce, meat and poultry, all at a price that would scarcely feed his family and provide for the next growing season.
    And who do you think they be?
    “Greetings,” he calls as he enters the kitchen door.
    Grunts are the only responses.
    The eldest, who is standing, finally glances his way. “You’ll have to come back. We can’t open today.”
    “The delivery will be ruined in the trek home and back again. It can go in your icebox until tomorrow.”
    The butcher, the baker, the pompous decision-maker.
    The eldest turns and strides to the farmer. “You’ll take it back and we’ll pay only for what we can use.”
    The farmer nods, stepping back toward the door and his waiting cart. “Careful, cousin, it seems the gas’s still on.”
    His cousin whips around to face the ovens as the farmer swiftly drags the metal door shut behind him, scraping the ground and catching a spark.
    Turn them out, knaves all three.


  59. Lu’s All You Can Eat Buffet
    208 Words

    Lu carefully schooled his features as the health inspectors announced themselves and waited for him to drop everything. He quickly obliged, gesturing towards the door.

    He prayed the inspection wouldn’t take too long, but it was a necessary evil— without their approval the restaurant would close starting a chain reaction. His business would fail and his backers would demand reparation.

    He gestured towards the kitchen. “We start here, yes?”

    The inspectors nodded and followed him into the kitchen, clipboards in hand as they made made notes on everything they saw. He watched as they talked between themselves and then looked up at him.

    “Food storage is next,” one of them stated in a bland tone.

    Lu quickly directed them to the pantry and then the coolers.

    As the inspection continued, he felt himself smiling. They hadn’t found anything yet.

    “One question,” the first inspector said as he closed his folder. “How can you make such good food at such low prices?”

    Lu smiled. “We make money on our buffet.”

    The inspector shook his head. “Really?”

    Lu nodded as he ushered the inspectors back to his office and took their reports. Once they left he called his investor’s number.

    “Yes, this is Lu… the flock is ready for harvesting.”


  60. “That Shall He Also Reap”
    by Michael Seese
    208 words

    Be not deceived.
    Should I be a naughty nurse? No? What about a French maid? Mais non? OK, I’m a Catholic school girl, sweet and naive.
    God is not mocked.
    Just for you, I’ll wear the uniform. Snow white Oxford shirt, plaid skirt, knee-high socks.
    For whatever a man sows.
    I have a story, a story no one knows.
    That shall he also reap.
    A secret I can no longer keep.
    For he that soweth to his flesh.
    I tried. I really tried to do my best.
    Shall of the flesh reap corruption.
    But with a father who drank himself into oblivion, I became a “parent” at 16. My mother? What to say about a mother who fucked the gardener, the pool boy, the neighbor? No man was safe from her obsessive-seductive compulsion.
    But he that soweth to the Spirit.
    So I ran away. But the thing your high school track coach doesn’t tell you is, the faster you run, the faster the pursuit runs. So this now is my life, or something near it.
    Shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
    Upon closer inspection, I needed affection, attention, love, understanding. But all I had at dinner was cacophony of silence and a plate full of emotional fasting.


  61. Title: Serpentine Ambition
    Author: Michael Wettengel
    Wordcount: 210

    Cultivation of curiosity. An important marketing concept all budding captain of industry must learn. All across this great urban playground, my ordained subordinates spread the word of modern day alchemy; Pax Ambrosia, a cream so miraculous it puts God out of a job. We had considered that for the tagline until I had hatched something better.
    Do you want to squirm below or do you want to ascend?
    Pathos, ambiguity, a direct challenge to the self. Every self-loathing baker, busboy, cab driver, and retail clerk in Chicago would answer that question the same way. And I relied on that fact.
    We put that slogan everywhere for all of the desperate groundlings to see. The backs of cars, down sewer grates, carved into trees. We did everything legally within our power and then some.
    Instagram exploded. Facebook almost melted down. People were setting up ladders just to read our tagline written into streetlights.
    “What does it mean?” they asked each other. But to me, they answered, “yes.” Yes, they want to rise above and have that Latin godly ascension.
    It was indeed harvesting time in Chicago: curiosity and of gullibility.
    People should know not to trust snakes. Especially when it’s trying to sell them its oil for fifty dollars a bottle.


    • Popped over to your blog to read the above. A farmer of the gullible and curious, peddling his wares to trap the unwary, a devil’s sales ploy indeed. Nice take (welcome to Flash!Friday by the way).


  62. In 1994, Mary Tyler Moore Falls in Love with a Lobster
    210 words

    A female lobster can only mate just after she’s shed her carapace. The lobster farmer—lobsterman? He’s so far outside her world she’s not sure how to label him—doesn’t flush as he tells Mary this, at a white-sheathed table in the closed restaurant.

    That morning, Mary, white-sheathed herself, saw the breathtaking creature through the window, and asked to be introduced to the supplier. Of course the lobsterman—lobsterman? That can’t be right. Lobsterman is that circus fellow—the lobster fisherman came at once.

    Mary looks shyly at Spike, her 18-pound obsession. She touches her bare knee under the table and wonders about molting. The lobster thickens her skin for protection, then one day everything in her itches to be rid of it. How brave, to feel the water again anew.

    The largest male, the lobster fellow tells her, mates with all the females in a community. At his size, Spike must have been the one to shelter these tender ladies, his swimmerets against their vulnerable bodies. (At “swimmerets” Mary’s muscles contract in delight; the word moves on her.)

    He says he almost threw Spike back, but “wanted him to be seen.” He thought people could learn something, though he didn’t know what, and Mary’s not sure we deserve it.


  63. To Everything There is a Season

    She took the cardboard cup from the barista, declining the corrugated sleeve without a word. Her elegant nails were splashes of burgundy against the background of white and green, and the click of her heels was a rhythm to which the chaos of the street harmonized. Not that any of the people around her knew what role she played in their lives – they were trapped in their own bubbles of self-absorption and smartphones – but that was the way Atropos liked it. After all, what did the wheat know of the combine?

    Her destination was three blocks up, where Murray and Leon crouched down in front of their new ovens. They were supposed to be the ticket to a great future for their bakery, but that would have required the gas lines to have been hooked up properly. They had considered themselves blessed to have landed one of the few restaurant spots in the new financial tower downtown, looking forward to lines of the city’s wealthiest grabbing one of their sweet treats for a morning snack or afternoon pick-me-up.

    Atropos drained the last of her espresso and strode past the bakers into their kitchen, smiling at more than the faint smell of gas on the air. It was time to harvest.

    210 words


  64. Dirty Work
    209 words

    “People just don’t like to get their hands dirty nowadays. They have no appreciation for hard work.” Jed swallowed, another forkful of beef and broccoli at the ready. He hoped Ruthie hadn’t noticed half the sty was still under his fingernails. He should’ve scrubbed them better before picking her up, but the pigs had gotten loose and he’d barely gotten a shower.

    “True.” Ruthie delicately grasped a small piece of ginger scallion lobster with her chopsticks. “But smart, important people always find a way to let others do the distasteful work for them.”

    “But that’s just…” Jeb stopped before he said ‘lazy.’ Insulting someone on the first date probably wasn’t wise. “Ruthie…”

    “Ruth. Just Ruth.” She folded perfectly manicured fingers in front of her on the table. “I may not be a debutante-”

    “A what?”

    “Never mind. Women are like lobsters, Jeb: part dangerous, part disconcerting, and altogether delectable.” She took another bite. “And while they appear similar, they’re not.”

    “I’ve never had lobster.”


    Jeb was fairly certain he had just been insulted. Understanding blossomed. “If you aren’t interested, you could’ve just asked me to take you home… Never mind. Nothing distasteful for you.” Jeb stood and held out his hand. “I’m used to doing the dirty work.”


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