Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 28

We’re closing in on the June 21 launch of the dual-volume Solstice anthology produced by the #FlashDogs, proceeds going to The Book Bus. Despite being walloped by that preposition-heavy sentence, I trust you’ve already set up your sidewalk tents at the front of queues around the world in anticipation. At the first available moment, I will be ordering a copy of Solstice: Light for this week’s #Spotlight raffle winner Caitlin Gramley. How many books will you buy on the first day? (For some reason, my father-in-law’s Old World Ukrainian voice echoes here. He’d ask how many eggs he should cook you: “One or two… dozen?” and crack himself up. -So how many books you gonna buy: one or two… dozen? hahahhaha.) Moving on.

It’s our final dragon captain farewell today (see below) — but there are exciting days coming in the next weeks!!! On Monday, along with results, we will unveil the names of the guest judges for next Friday’s round (you are going to freak out), one of whom will also appear in next Tuesday’s #Spotlight feature. And after that? Friday July 3 kicks off our BRAND NEW judge panel. Prepare to have your brains melted by the stunning talent represented by these new captains.   

cropped-ffbadge-lg2.jpg

Dragon Emporium! Buy dragon stuff!

 

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DC2WEEP WITH ME AS WE BID ADIEU to the fabulous, unforgettable Dragon Team Four: Captains Sinéad O’Hart & Pratibha. These two were tasked with sorting through a small mountain of priceless jewels each turn, in true Herculean style identifying the ones whose facets gleamed brightest. And yet it’s a task they dispatched with great courage and humor, no doubt because of their shared obsession for the rich, complex, bejeweled tapestries of the human mind. Raise the stakes and shake the earth for your characters, says Sinéad. Let your narrative flow smoothly, richly, says Pratibha, before smoothly and richly punching your reader in the gut. Guess they thought they’d spread that Herculean love around, eh?          

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

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

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

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

Winners: will post Monday.

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

AND HERE IS YOUR TWO-PART PROMPT:

(1) Required story element (this week: theme. If you want your story to be eligible for an award, the below theme of “déjà vu” must be a central to your story): 

deja vu

 

(2) Photo prompt to incorporate:

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.

Train wreck at Montparnasse, 1895. Public domain photo.

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380 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 28

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 208

    Like Daughter

    The smear of fingerprints across a dusty windowpane winks in the dull shine of the nightlight. You’ve told me you don’t sleep with your glow worm anymore, but a mama can’t help worrying, baby. Your open window welcomes the bleeding night, and evening breezes whisper of your escape.

    The chair is missing its leather jacket decoration, carefully stitched beneath the arm; the stale scent of cheap cigarettes lingers behind.

    Do you love him?

    I should know better than to expect normal speech; an eye-roll is the medium of communication you use these days. Daddy was harsh, baby, I know. If you’d just bring the boy around by the front door.

    I smooth the rumpled coverlet that’s littered with wadded papers and candy wrappers. My reflection in your window glass peers balefully out at the night. Anticipation lines my mouth, the curve of my white-ridged knuckles.

    Come home, baby. You’re a train wreck waiting to happen. Maybe not tonight, maybe not in a week. But someday soon, those brakes will crack, the gears will strip. Flames will burst through your carefully concealed dust curtains, and you’ll shudder to a stop only after you’ve lost your path.

    You don’t know anything!

    I do, baby. I remember. I’ve been there, too.

  2. Ghost Train

    “Sir?”

    “Huh?” Groggily, I struggled to snap out of a deep sleep.

    “Mr. Scripps, it’s time.”

    “I’m awake, Conductor.”

    “We have reached Grayson’s Gorge.”

    “Have we pulled onto the shoofly track yet?”

    “That’s in process, sir.”

    “Good.” I stepped out into the corridor and felt the slightest vibration as the Golden Limited slipped onto the temporary track Northwest Railways had constructed five years earlier.

    “It’s going smoothly,” the Conductor, Frank Whaley, breathed a thoughtful sigh of relief.

    “Any other passengers awake?”

    “It’s just past three in the morning, Mr. Scripps. They are all dead to the world.”

    “Good. Then we’ll just wait.”

    It took a few minutes to bring the Limited to a halt. Once that was accomplished, Frank Whaley and I stood in the dark corridor looking out into the empty, still silent night.

    “I’ve never seen it before, sir. Have you?”

    “Each of the last four years, Frank.”

    We stared out the window.

    I could see the bright light streak down the steep grade.

    The screeching whistle blew; The Rocky Mountain Bullet shot by us at a phenomenal speed and , like it had each and every year for ten years, jumped the tracks and plummeted into Grayson’s Gorge, bursting into flame, smoke and never-ending death.

    210 apparitions
    @billmelaterplea
    http://www.engleson.ca

  3. @firdausp
    Life and beyond…
    (208 words)
    They had given her something that made her drowsy. The fumes from the incense sticks added to her languid state.

    She was the chosen one.

    The holy virgin, to be sacrificed to please the Rain Gods. If only they knew how impure she was.

    She had tried to tell them but the high priest had just smiled. Then he had taken her to his private chambers and raped her. Finally he had declared her to be the pure one.

    The drum beats got louder and the chanting from the women surrounding her, holding her down, got incessantly hypnotising. They made her kneel before a stone slab, pressing her head sideways on it. She didn’t feel the sharp sword slice through her neck-she was fast asleep!

    The temple was more than five hundred years old. It was beautiful!

    The guide was rattling off information, but her mind was somewhere else. The place looked familiar. She could almost imagine men beating drums, and women dancing to the beat. She touched a stone slab on a platform. Running her hand over it, she felt the rough surface; where had she seen it?
    “That’s the stone where they sacrificed animals and sometimes humans!” the guide informed, wrecking her train of thought.

  4. The Inventor
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    206 Words

    ‘Oh Charles, how could you. Last time it was a charabanc and Daddy said never again. I begged him, Charles. I got down on my bended knees and begged. I promised that you’d learned your lesson, that you’d never do anything so silly again.’

    ‘I know, Daphne, my love. But in my heart I’m an inventor, don’t you see. I can’t help it.’

    ‘But Charles you’ve never invented anything that’s actually possible. They’re just stupid ideas that could never ever work. What was it last time? Some little box that could tell you exactly where you are and the best road to take.’

    ‘It could work, Daphne.’

    ‘Charles! It needed things flying higher than even the Montgolfier brothers could imagine. No Charles, this really has to stop.’

    ‘But I think I’m on to a winner dearest.’

    ‘Charles!’

    ‘No listen. It’s a little box that you can type messages on to someone and they can reply sending one back. Just think, I could tell you I’m on the train home, or that we need cat food. It could have its own language so you didn’t have to type everything in full. It would be so LOL. I just suppose you’d have to ban using it while driving.’

  5. Josh Bertetta
    “Casey Jones”
    209 Words
    @JBertetta

    She slipped on her nightgown and lit her cigarette. She used to smoke afterward, because, well, it helped her calm down after getting all worked up. She didn’t need the cigarette now, but smoked it anyway.

    She scowled at him, facing the wall, almost hanging off the side of the bed. Had she slipped on the silk sheets he might have fallen off.

    She walked downstairs, started a pot of coffee, and, after putting the first out, lit another, then, after one, maybe two puffs, ground it out the way they used to grind it out—hard and fast.

    She just didn’t get it. Sure she wasn’t as tight in certain places, but many a man, she told herself, would be lucky to have a wife half as fine.

    So why couldn’t he…?

    She rolled her eyes when he trudged down the stairs. “Coffee?”

    “After I get the paper.”

    And so he did, then, upon setting it upon the kitchen table, poured his cup.

    She unfolded the paper and, laughing, held up the front page featuring a story—replete with photo—of a train wreck, the engine and first car having blasted through a second story stone wall, hanging, as it were, limp. “Déjà vu, all over again, huh?”

  6. Under | Ground

    @makingfiction

    209 words

     

    He opens the door with his elbow. Turns the taps with the sides of his hands.

    Scrubs. Scrubs. Scrubs.

    Until skin is raw and soul is clean.

    Puts on his uniform. Adjusts the collar. Polishes the buttons with a disposal antibac wipe. Makes the required checks, the required number of times.

    Heads for the Underground station.

    Down.

    Down.

    Down.

    Into the bowels of hell.

    He sits in the cabin. A mole moving through the tunnels.

    Cha-cha cha-cha, Cha-cha cha-cha, says the sound of the tracks.

    Sparks fly like fallen angels in the night.

    The drone of the auto-voice as they approach the station.

    Always the same.

    The woman on the platform.

    Will she jump?

    He braces.

    Always the same.

    ***

    She makes the sandwiches for Sophie. No butter. Crusts precisely cut.

    Makes the meal for Cliff now. No time later. Cottage Pie, it’s Thursday.

    Quickly showers. Changes. Changes again, the other mums notice repeated outfits in the same week.

    Timesaving techniques employed to achieve maximum impact with minimal time.

    Run to the Underground.

    The oh-so-slow passengers. She shouts at Sophie if only she’d been quicker packing her bag.

    She never listens.

    Always the same.

    On the return, she straddles the edge of the platform.

    The train approaches.

    Always the same.

  7. The Last Laugh by Martha Jane Curtis
    @marthajcurts
    201 words

    I laugh every time I think about our conversation:

    “I didn’t do it, Mr. Cain. I never even touched it.”
    “Joe, my secretary saw you leaning out the window, laughing and pointing.
    “But I didn’t do it.” You have to believe me. I’m a senior. I graduate in May. I wouldn’t mess that up. I’m going to college this fall. Please, Mr. Cain.”
    “You’re a good student, Joe. I don’t want to set you back, but this is serious. Someone has to pay for it.”
    “Please, Mr Cain….”
    “Joe, if you just tell me who did it …”
    “I can’t tell you.”
    “What CAN you tell me, Joe?”
    “Can’t you just ask the other guys? Maybe someone will confess.”
    “I KNOW you had something to do with it. Those guys wouldn’t have thought of such a thing without help. What did you say to them?”
    “All I said was, ‘Have you ever seen words fly?’ Then I saw the typewriter sailing out the window.”

    Then today, twenty years later to the day, my cell phone rang. I answered.
    “Hello, Joe, Principal Roberts here. Sorry to bother you at work, but your son is sitting in my office …”

  8. Again
    (207 words)
    @elaine173marie
    How many words are there for blue?  Stones the colour of lapis sit heavy and dull in my belly. They score and claw at my tubes on their way down so I taste the blood of bruises on my tongue.
    Even in warm rooms, ice blue knots blossom on the backs of hands that knit into the air mere shades of you.
    The indigo ink written through our genetic code dyes my tears as they spill across the cyan skies, for everything is the hue of sorrow. The sun cannot shine brazen yellow across a world without you.
    Squawking birds trace  unquiet circles above the azure sea of loss, the tips of their sharp wings ripping at the tissue of a mind drowning in cerulean echo.

    Over and over:

    Denim Blue; you’re at the door smiling the smile you share with your sister.
    Boy Blue; the toy train on the road you return for.
    Bedlam Blue; the lunatic squeal of rubber.
    Neuralgic blue; my skin to the touch.
    Blue.The taste of food, the scent of oxygen, the colour of conversation, silence, good intentions, the insides of my eyelids, the empty bedroom, the empty spaces.
    The colour of the repeating void.
    The colour of losing you.

  9. Josh Bertetta
    Hear my train a’comin’
    210 Words
    @JBertetta

    I tried to shake it off: this feeling that—though my first time in India—I’d been here before.

    A beggar in nothing but a rag around his waist stepped into the train car and sat in the seat before me, turned, and said “Don’t worry, you’ll be born again” all nonchalant like.

    Behind my gentle nod and smile I said “Fuck off” and redirected my attention to the Gangetic plain.

    He proceeded to tell me how the cosmos had been created and destroyed infinite times in the past and would continue as such for an infinite amount times in the future. Half-listening, I said “uh-huh” several times throughout his speech.

    “You ever get that feeling like you’ve been somewhere before, but you can’t remember when?”

    “No,” I lied.

    “Hm. Well, like they say, karma’s a female dog.”

    I snickered at that one.

    “You can’t get around it you know.”

    “Can’t get around what?”

    “Time. Everything that has ever happened has happened an infinite amount of times in the past
    and will be so in the future. Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of telling you over and over again,” he joked. “Don’t be sad.”

    “Don’t be sad about what?”

    “We’re all gonna die in a train wreck again.”

  10. Wishing For Eternity In A World Lost To Love
    200 words

    “Can I kiss you?”
    “Not just now. You can read to me.”
    “What do you want me to read?”
    “You choose.”
    He reads an old collection of short stories. Each one is small and perfectly formed. By themselves they would be no more than an amuse bouche, but together form an intimate banquet we share as wind howls in the eaves and sirens speed along the streets hidden behind our curtains.
    The lights flicker and my heart sinks. Rolling brown-outs are becoming common. The infrastructure is old, unable to cope with the stress placed upon it.
    He keeps reading until the electric cuts out. His voice stopping removes warmth from the room, as if it was a protection against the cold winter wind. In the dark I think of the years we sat together, lay together. All those times now gone forever, destroyed by a worn train-track and the chaos it caused.
    When the lights blink back on I wipe the tears from my cheeks and press the restart button. His hologram shimmers on the seat next to me.
    “Can I kiss you?”
    “Not just now. You can read to me.”
    “What do you want me to read?”

    @clivetern

  11. @bex_spence

    5:22
    192 words

    Sitting in worn leather, staring at the picture. Voices in the room fade out as your pulse beats to the rhythm of the train, chug, chug, chugging to the internal motion of the locomotive. That familiar feeling, the harsh scent of coal, and a fierce blazing heat from the fire of the engine.

    Running on the track, pulsating through the landscape. Coastline speeding past.

    Far in the distant voices mumble:

    ‘We’ve lost him again, Tommy, can you hear us?’

    You race along, shifting coal into the furnace, fueling the fire, charging onwards. Picking up the speed, flying ever forwards. Smoke spilling from the chimney, creating a path of clouds wherever you go.

    Passing small back gardens, a young girl waves to the train.

    A hand on your arm, touch into reality.

    Sat in the room confused from disruption, your legs dangle from the chair. You are five again and they are talking.

    ‘Tommy, are you ok?’

    Looking at the picture, a small smile on your face, you search for her. Run to her, and embrace that familiar feeling.

    You pull her close whisper in her ear. ‘Mummy lets go see the trains’.

  12. Word Count – 200
    @susanOReilly3

    Closeted
    There are so many skeletons in my wardrobe that their bones I cosset. Always a sense of déjà vu a fact I never rue. There great company always stiff for me. I often slip in there and converse for hours, the other day they bought me flowers.
    There’s my old boyfriend section, dresses of all kinds too many to mention. He liked to see my legs, I often made him beg. He was a total train wreck, broke his neck.
    I still have some of my mum’s stuff, there looking a bit rough. But I like to sit and get her scent, it’s always time well spent. If John asks me again to let go, there’ll be a vacancy in his spot, you know.
    There’s the section that’s full to the brim and through it I love to skim. It’s hidden from everyone’s view, and waiting for you. Baby dresses galore, well at least a score. Bibs and cute pants, I can see you dance.
    John I hope is not shooting blanks, or he’ll be gone with thanks. Baby girl I’m ever ready, I adore you already.
    I’ll get you by whatever means the wardrobe doors a great screen.

  13. Don’t You Weep (Pretty Baby)
    210 words

    “Mama is it time yet?”

    Elizabeth smiled at her daughter as Lucille swung her legs, ruffling the fabric of her dress as the little girl tried to peer out the window of the train.

    At six Lucille was the most important part of Elizabeth’s life.

    The thought had her clutching the pendant that her husband had made for her, the one that housed the only picture she had of him.

    Beneath her feet the train rumbled as it started its journey and Lucille squealed, her blue eyes wide with awe. Lucille probably didn’t remember the first time she’d been on a train and that was a good thing because Elizabeth had tried her damnedest to forget that day.

    “Are we gonna see Papa? I can’t wait,” Lucille carried on and Elizabeth’s smile cracked.

    She turned her head so that Lucille wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.

    The train lurched and a feeling of déjà vu slammed into Elizabeth’s chest but she didn’t let her smile waver as Lucille stared at her because this time she knew exactly what was happening…this time she was in control.

    Metal shrieked as the train jerked, sending passengers and luggage flying but Elizabeth just kept smiling at Lucille.

    “Mama’s coming home, baby,” she promised.

  14. Destination Nowhere
    208 Words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    The Rendezvous was a sleazy, hole in the wall tavern in the middle of a wall of ‘hole in the wall’ taverns. The Rendezvous distinguished itself by making the others look classy.

    The floors were sticky, and the place reeked of beer. It was exactly what Edgar needed. He wasn’t looking for class, all he cared about was getting ‘falling down, three sheets to the wind, shit faced drunk’, and the ‘Vous was the place to do it.

    He laid two-hundred dollars on the bar and told the bartender to keep them coming. He didn’t even care what ‘they’ were, as long as they took him where he wanted to go.

    The bartender studied him for a long minute before obliging.

    Edgar downed three drinks in quick succession before the world began to shake.

    The sound of metal scraping on stone was followed by a deep rumble as concrete and rebar tore and crumbled, falling everywhere. As people dove for cover, a shock-wave hit the bar as 170 tons of American Steel hit the ground outside.

    “What the hell?” Someone demanded as the lights flickered.

    “The 721 from Newark,” Edgar answered as everything went pitch black.

    -*- -*- -*- -*- -*- -*- -*- -*-

    The Rendezvous was a sleazy hole in the wall tavern…

  15. The Original Mr Grey

    @making_fiction

    206 words

     

    One of them wears a white suit. Has golden hair. Has teeth that are so white you need headache pills to recover from his smile.

    If you find yourself surrounded by your family, in your old age, in a hospital — it’s him that you’ll want to meet.

    To know him is to love him.

    One of them wears a dark cloak. Hair, if he has any, is hidden behind a hood. Once a year, on Father’s Day, he likes to dad-dance with his rusty scythe.

    If you find yourself on a train, car, or plane and something unexpected happens – it’s him you’ll want to avoid.

    To know him is to fear him.

    Me? You don’t know me. That’s the point. I’m the other one. The one that nobody sees.

    I am your dull wait at the dentists.

    The punishing bureaucracy.

    I am your interminable train ride home. Each. And. Every. Night.

    I make sure everything is tedious and repetitive. The highs and lows balance. Until your life is spent and you wonder what happened to it.

    The other two always called me Mr Grey. Now they tease me about fetishes and playrooms (whatever they are).

    It seems I’ll have to change my name.

    I blame the writers.

  16. THAT ONE TRAIN by E.F. Olsson

    The sound of the distant train horn woke me up – as it does every morning – but it was always different on this date. I felt the urge to hurry and grab my keys to watch the train pass by even though I already knew what was going to happen. Maybe this time it will be different.

    I stopped at the tracks. The beams of my headlights tracked the bugs as they danced around and waited with me. The train horn was louder. The ground began to rumble. The hairs on my arm stood as car headlights appeared in my rearview mirror. They quickly approached as the guard rail slowly fell and the red caution lights flashed – the car was not stopping!

    I wanted to step out of my car this time – to warn the man; his name was Todd Ballard – but I was frozen in terror. I gripped my steering wheel as the headlights swerved to my left as the train passed before me. I could hear the screeching wheels, the explosion of metal against metal.

    The train was gone. All was calm and quiet again. I drove home still shaking from the memory. Maybe next time I’ll step out and stop this from continuing.

    (205 words)
    @EFOlsson

  17. Derailed

    I’ve watched this scene a hundred times. I’m missing something. I stare at my translucent pocket watch, counting down. There’s the toot of the horn, the crunch of the barricade, then screaming passengers, before the train crashes through the wall. I’m stood below, selling my papers. I never see it coming.

    I’ve tried everything. Each time I get a little stronger, my options expanding.

    I toss the papers away in a breeze, but my genial self just stands there laughing. Toot, crunch, scream, crash, dead.

    I possess a bird and poop all over myself. More laughing. Toot, crunch, scream, crash, dead.

    I make it rain. Damn, I have an umbrella. Toot, crunch, scream, crash, dead.

    Eventually I’m strong enough to swerve a nearby horse off course. I’ll dive away just in time. Instead I stand there gormlessly and get trampled to death. Progress, I guess.

    I’m running out of ideas when it strikes me. I only care about my precious papers. I concentrate hard and throw a wheel from the delivery wagon. I watch in amazement as I finally leave that fateful spot. I’ve done it, I’ve saved myself.

    My joy is short lived. I should have known my wife would cover for me.

    Toot, crunch, scream, crash, dead.

    209 words
    @todayschapter

  18. @AvLaidlaw
    209 Words

    Station To Station

    It was Tuesday. Or Wednesday. He couldn’t remember. After twenty years taking the 7:35 from Haslemere every morning, all the days seemed to merge with each other. Perhaps it was time for a change.

    The train passed through Farncombe Station, he saw the sign reflected faintly in the carriage window. Then the train jolted and lurched to one side with a squeal of brakes as it slid along the tracks. He spread his hand over his pounding heart and took a deep breath.

    He was not a superstitious man, twenty years in accounts had smothered the imagination in him, but he knew that was an omen. Forty-five and nothing to show for it except a season ticket for the train and a tidy sum saved for his pension. That would have to change. The moment he got into the office, he’d write his resignation letter and slap it on the desk of Old Napoleon. He’d be free.

    The train passed through Farncombe Station. He blinked. That had just happened, he was sure of it. Or happened yesterday. He couldn’t remember. After twenty years taking the 7:35 from Haslemere every morning, all the days seemed to merge with each other. Perhaps it was time for a change.

  19. Phynne Bellecieux
    @PhynneBelle
    Word Count: 209

    Deja Vu, Tea Leaves and the Tragedy We Do Not Speak Of.
    by Phynne Belle

    I picked carefully through the loose, black sod, attentive to each piece I laid down after thorough perusal. I never knew at inception what I would find, only that I was in pursuit of the exemplary, that never failed to present itself here in these fragrant hills.

    These symmetrical, shelves of earth still held their ghosts, like the idea of unrequited love. Each leaf shimmered unearthly silver-green in the pre-dawn light–lovely, secretive beacons. Each leaf and branch carried unspoken sorrow, and their sorrow seeped into my skin as I stooped among them. They steeped me in their memories commingling in my own reveries.

    “Such worries that crease your brow, always, Tela!” Mommy would tease. “Ah, our little bookworm carries the weight of many moons on those skinny shoulders,” My Aunty Meling would observe, not always so kindly. “Shouldn’t she be out playing with the other neighbourhood children, yah?”

    I escape to my lush secret as the sun playfully peeks her glowing crown around the acacia trees. I awaken early with the household staff to escape my disgruntled Aunty’s meddlesome ways. Yet, somewhere in my psyche, barely unfurled, I run always to my beloved, moody sentinels to find where I had last remembered being truly happy, so very long ago.

  20. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 201

    This Engine Can

    I think I can, I think I can, I think I—

    “Ma’am?”

    The voice startles me, and my fumbling hands drop the Lego engine around which I’ve curled my concentration. The smokestack insists on falling off; it’s chipped, sticky with baby touches and candy slobber.

    Echoes of my mother’s voice chatter in a cacophony of swirling ghosts.

    You can’t, Lily. Your fingers don’t work that way.

    How many times had I slaved over my trains, cursing my twisted hands as they struggled with the simple task? The breath of childhood defeat stains my aging skin.

    “Yes?” I look up at the slick-haired manager in his suit and tie, his perfectly straight glasses. I can see it hovering on the tip of his tongue: these toys are for the children.

    He’s too well-trained.

    “Would you care for some help?” he asks instead.

    Heat floods my cheeks. Mortified, I brush the smokestack back into my twisted hand. Whether by a miracle, a twist of fate, or simple happenstance, the piece snaps into place.

    Triumph.

    I’m no stranger to the manager’s doubt. It had always flooded my mother’s glances.

    I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.

  21. The Dress
    (210 words)

    As arranged marriages go Madelyn, an orphan living off the kindness of wealthy relatives, could have done worse. And a vicar with a parsonage suited Madelyn’s station in life. Tomorrow she’d meet him for the first time on their wedding day.

    She laid out her trousseau before retiring, the borrowed finery a luxury in itself. Unable to resist the caress of the lace-covered silk dress against her skin, she slipped it over her head.

    Screams and screeching metal assaulted her ears. A vision of hurtling into black nothingness flashed before her eyes. She ripped off the dress, remembering the story of how its original owner perished.

    Breathing heavily, Madelyn lay down.

    She passed a beggar woman. A man changed the destination sign in the terminal. She tripped over the last step boarding the train. She settled in as the train left the station. Ten minutes later screams and a piercing screech of metal assaulted her ears. Madelyn woke up, breathing heavily.

    As Madelyn approached the train station, she saw a beggar woman by the entrance. As she purchased her ticket, a man changed destination signs. A funny feeling gripped her when she tripped on the last step. She ignored it. After all, this was her wedding day.

    Ten minutes later . . .

  22. Moments
    (207 words)
    The sky is gunmetal grey. The ranks of uniforms on the platform are broken by Sunday Best dresses. Rouge disguises the women’s haunted faces; bravado camouflages fear in men’s voices. He holds me tight like he’s pinning down a moment in time. But he can’t.
    He waves from the train’s open window, our last exchange. A batallion falls even before the battlefield is reached.

    The sky is gunmetal grey. The ranks of uniforms on the platform are broken by Sunday Best dresses. I cannot hide the naked fear on my face, others have made a valiant attempt. Bawdy jokes camouflage the tremble in men’s voices.
    He waves from the open window. The screech of the steel sarcophagus echoes through the town’s backstreets streets and alleyways.

    The sky is gunmetal grey. I cannot face the station. I am helpless. He leaves. I wave from the window. The wave is a pale symbol of the sentiment of goodbye.

    The sky is gunmetal grey. I plead. Delay. For me. I can’t explain. A feeling. We argue. No goodbyes; just regrets.

    The sky is gunmetal grey. I paint rouge onto my face and plate myself in bravado. I kiss him like we’re alone and tell him I will miss him. Always.

  23. TO BE OR NOT TO BE HERE NOW (210 words)

    I have always had trouble focusing on the here and now. My Mother would often ask me: “Are you ‘here’ Johnny?” I was the daydreaming kid in the back row of class staring off into space, or squeezing my hands into fists with knit brow for no apparent reason.

    The boundary between my realities is as thin as the dry skin of a garlic clove. It is a semipermeable membrane that both confuses and amuses me to no end.

    I choke on the incense in the Taj Mahal. I try to loosen the rattling chains as the actor shifts uncomfortably for the monochrome photo shoot. I sell sandwiches to men constructing the foundation for the grand dame of liberty. I worry over the note cards I have prepared for the speech I will give to the oriental ladies addicted to smoking. I’m deafened by the waterfall’s pounding pressure on my eardrums. I break up a saloon fight and throw out the scoundrels, knocking over the wooden Indian statue outside the double swinging doors.

    But I also have the same peculiar feeling when I look toward the future. I know what’s coming ‘round the bend. I knew to take the bus to work today and not the train.

  24. The journey

    The clicking and thrumming of wheels, like the insistent beat of a drum, is carrying me off to the otherworlds. It’s not meant to be like this, unprepared, unplanned, but I feel myself slipping away all the same. With a start the train crosses a set of points breaking the rhythm and I am alert again, just outside my skin, with the surging sensation that I have been here before, and it is so apparent that this is part of a colossal cosmic plot that in this instant I see clearly for the first time. But…. Clickety click…clickety click…the rhythm is back and I’m off again. Down to the lower world, no, up to the upper world, no down it is, drifting drifting, searching for my animal friends to guide and anchor me. Hazily they appear. “Go back” they say, “go back, you should not be here now.”
    Without purpose I struggle to comprehend but they are so insistent that I try to pull up and away to my own world. Up, up and then a terrible screeching and grinding and feelings of terror followed by an immense silence. I cannot find my body, I am lost in a terrible breakdance between the worlds.

  25. Of mythic proportion
    210 words
    @plaguedparent

    Cow parts littered the ground. Small pieces mostly but occasionally there appeared half a head or a hindquarter as if they’d already been slaughtered. Technically, they had. Just outside the blast radius was an actual half a cow – the animal sheared clean in two by shrapnel. Front half here; back half there. Miraculously some survived, especially those in cars furthest away from where their train collided with the chemical tankers. Living beasts scattered and ran confused through a labyrinth of debris and fire.

    Astounding, Margo thought, snapping her windbreaker as she walked to the briefing tent. A tedious familiarity settled as she stood among fellow transportation investigators. Her colleague Ted shot her a look; she shook her head. Their report last year warned of this – three incidents in three years should be a sign.

    Ted marveled at the carnage, “They don’t care when its cargo; they care slightly more when its cattle; when its people they’ll say why didn’t you fix this sooner.”

    “Bull,” Margo responded.

    “I know. Total crap.”

    “No,” she said pointing, “Bull.” Standing before them, dazed and confused, the steer stumbled past the flaming wreckage reminiscent of her childhood fixation with Greek mythology and the dreams she once had of Minotaur and the many forms of Zeus.

    • Ha, this one made me chuckle. I thought you had a great take on the prompt and really liked the way you ended it!

  26. Tomorrow’s Headline
    205 Words
    @msbbrumley

    On Place de Rennes, Dee’s face ticked, her lips pulled into a grimace. “22 October 1895.” She waited for the dizziness to pass, her hands splayed across the stones. “22 October 1895.”

    From behind, a woman’s voice called, “Newspaper!”

    Dee turned, “Marie-Augustine Aguilard?”

    “Oui?”

    “Please, come with me.”

    “No, I must wait for the evening edition.”

    Dee heard the rumble, the telltale screech of the whistle. Panic swirled as the rancid taste of fear sucked the moisture from her mouth. “This time, you must listen.”

    “My husband will return soon.”

    The earth quaked beneath their feet, and Marie looked upward; her attention drawn by a chorus of hundreds, screaming.

    “No, no, no, no,” Dee threw herself forward.

    The train exploded through the masonry wall, sending clouds of dust and a rain of stone shrapnel over them.

    Afterward, Marie coughed, “Who are you?” Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.

    Dee brushed her fingertips down Marie’s face, closing the woman’s lavender eyes. Again. “I am your great granddaughter.”

    ***

    Disoriented, on Place de Rennes, Dee’s face ticked, her lips pulled into a grimace, then released. “22 October 1895.” Her left eye blinked, then both eyes clenched, her hands splayed across the stones of Gare Montparnasse.

  27. The Prize

    “You do this every time.”

    “I beg your pardon, this is the first time I ever wrecked a train.”

    She scorched him with her eyes.

    “I’m not talking about the train, I’m talking about getting in stupid competitions with your buddies down at the club. Before the model trains it was race horses. Before that it was mountain climbinb. It’s always something.”

    He smiled slightly, and glanced down at his shoes.

    “I had to go full size. Lord Albert’s model train was ¼ scale and Sir Umberton went to ½ scale. Full scale was all that was left.”

    “The guest bedroom is totally destroyed, and the front of the house is a mess. I will have to cancel Dennis Breyerly’s visit completely.”

    He couldn’t restrain his smile, so he didn’t look up, but she still saw it in the corners of his eyes.

    “I suppose you must,” he said.

    “You don’t always have to win.”

    He glanced up at her green eyes and fiery red hair.

    “There are some battles one cannot afford to lose. Some prizes so cherished, that one must do whatever it takes to secure them.”

    The flamboyant young artist who had paid his beautiful bride a little too much attention, would not be visiting.

    208 Words
    @CharlesWShort

  28. @colin_d_smith
    Word Count: 195
    Title: “Always the Same”

    Always the same, always the same, always the same
    Peck on the cheek, wave to the kids
    Ten minute drive, train running late
    Coffee too hot, window-side view
    Always the same, always the same, always the same

    Train stops again, don’t even flinch
    Peter gets on, sits next to me
    Moans about kids, moans about wife
    Moans about work, moans about life
    Always the same, always the same, always the same

    Lulled by the noise, wheels on the track
    Peter’s dull voice, head starts to sag
    Mind starts to drift: spreadsheets and charts
    Dollars and cents, percentage increase
    Mary McLane, the curve of her dress
    A smile and a wink, a glance at my ring
    Always the same, always the same, always the same

    Must stay awake, arriving in ten
    Peter consumed, reading a book
    Fire up the phone, google the news
    Terrorist strikes, hundreds feared dead
    Shooting at mall, President speaks
    Senator lies, nobody cares
    Always the same, always the same, always the same

    Screeching of brakes, stopping too soon
    Spilling of cups, briefcases fall
    Train leaves the tracks, brick wall ahead!
    Always the same, always the same, always the same
    Until it isn’t.

  29. 1979

    Brian S Creek
    209 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    I wake up screaming again.

    The smell of hot metal and a cacophony of chaos cling on as my mind claws itself back to the real world. It’s always the same; the crash, the destruction, the pain, the bodies. Cut to black before waking in my duvet cocoon; safe and sound, covered in sweat. I’m glad my wife works nights.

    I take my little blue notebook from the nightstand, the one I’ve been using to catch the sights and sounds I witness whenever this dream comes calling. Instead of adding to it this time, I take it with me downstairs. Like coals for a steam engine, the coffee fires up my brain, and I fire up the laptop. Dream diary to hand, I go searching.

    GOOGLE: Train crash.
    GOOGLE: Train station accident.
    GOOGLE: Train station derailment.

    It’s all so vague. They say train is a safe way to travel, but when you condense all the tragedies through one internet search it appears like a losing battle.

    And then I remember.

    GOOGLE: Locomotive 1109.

    Pictures. Articles. Front page news. An accident that happened in 1979.

    I scroll down to see pictures of the eleven people who died that day.

    Second from bottom, I see myself, and the whole world spins.

  30. The Visitor

    Opening the door to the carriage, I paused on the cusp of entering, momentarily perturbed by the almost familiar juddering of the locomotive. My consternation passed, and I nodded in greeting to my new-found travel-mates. Taking my repose, I loosened my cravat and reached for my book: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (in the original Latin, of course).

    Without warning there was a prickliness to the air, that I’d liken unto just before the deliverance provided by a summer storm. Each traveller looked up, with surprise writ large on our features. Something dashedly vexing then occurred… a fellow appeared, garbed most strangely. His shimmering coat put me in mind of that magnificent one possessed by Joseph.

    Naught but garbled yips and whistles assailed our ears when first he spake. Frowning, he made a gesture with the curious device in his hand. A beam shot out, engulfing the carriage in a disconcerting light. “Milord, this Temporalist has come at great danger with the utmost urgency. I require your assistance. I beseech you, please walk through the door before -” With that, he disappeared. Uncontrollably I felt drawn to the handle.

    Opening the door to the carriage, I paused on the cusp of entering, momentarily perturbed by the almost familiar juddering of the locomotive.

    @davejamesashton
    210 words

  31. I Love You/I Love You Not

    Black and white flickers cast silver light over my face.
    What am I doing here?
    Palms on smooth wooden arm rests, and the sensation that I’ve been here before.
    Micah.
    I’m waiting for Micah.
    He appears beside me.
    I turn to smile at him and his flat black eyes return only my reflection.
    On the screen there is tight shot of a panicked conductor.
    “Micah?”
    “Why did you leave me, Amy?”
    “What are you talking about?” I ask and grip his arm. It is dry enough to whisper worries against my palm. I snatch my hand away.
    “Why didn’t you even try?”
    A sudden stench of burning flesh blossoms around us. I gag.
    The train on screen barrels through the station walls.
    “You ran out as fast as you could. You wanted to get ahead of the panicked crowd,” Micah says in a monotonous tone.
    “You didn’t even look back,” he says and touches a single finger to my cheek.
    I see how he died. Feel how he died.
    “When your time came I couldn’t wait to give you this gift. Forever,” he says and I scream as I feel my own body burn.

    Black and white flickers cast a silver light over my face.
    What am I doing here…

    210 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  32. ERROR 7706: DATA CORRUPTION

    Brian S Creek
    203 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    The first thing I notice is the sun in the sky. I look around and find myself in an expanse of near desert. Dead trees mark the borders of a road or track.

    A trail of footprints follow me. No, they are my footprints. I appear to be heading east.

    Using my quad lens binocular vision, I zoom to my maximum limit. On the horizon sits a city. Using the dimensions of the most discernible skyscrapers, I search my memory banks and conclude that it is Chicago. I have no data regarding a journey to Chicago. Perhaps more information can be gathered when I arrive there.

    My joints are stiff but I get them moving. One foot in front of the other, each step creating a new footprint in my trail.

    I make it to my sixth step when my CPU alerts me to error 7706; data corruption affecting operating programs. One by one my systems shut down. I try to back up the last few minutes but I’m blocked.

    *

    The first thing I notice is the moon in the sky. I look around and find myself in an expanse of near desert. Dead trees mark the borders of a road or track.

  33. Home
    @agardana09
    201 Words

    I know this drive. I lie in bed during late, sleepless nights and run it through my mind like a film on repeat. The seemingly endless road between who I am now and who I once was – they say you can never go home again.

    My high heels hit gravel as I close the door of the rental. This is when momma would run out onto the porch, screen door almost slamming daddy’s face as he followed. He’d catch my eye over momma’s shoulder, smiling while she pressed me close.

    The wind blows gravel over my heels, scuffing them. The screen door shakes in the breeze; it’s worse than silence. I shouldn’t wait for the warmth of her hug or the comfort of his laugh –

    Flashes of the twenty-four hour news cycle burn through the memories. The train crashing, the fire absorbing the cars, I cringe and try not to imagine them screaming as heat chars their skin and takes them away. I try and fail.

    The weathered wooden porch creaks under my heels and for a moment my hand pauses on the doorknob. The house, the porch, the drive, the hometown – it’s all too different, it’s all exactly the same.

  34. Distant Memories
    (208 words)

    Suddenly, it was all too familiar to Sergio.

    The silence when the world stood still for a fraction of a second before it became an indiscernible whirling blur of sight, sound, and sensation. The screaming of metal as it twisted and contorted from the impact. The terror of being thrashed around the cabin of the locomotive like a rag doll and the helplessness of knowing there was no way to stop it. Then the split second of searing pain before being swallowed up by darkness.

    Sergio struggled to breathe as wafting clouds of acrid smoke invaded his nostrils and tore at his lungs. He lay on the ground dazed and confused as he tried to comprehend what just happened. Around him, the world was a hazy mixture of lights, sirens and figures scurrying around the wreckage.

    Sergio slowly succumbed to the darkness again. When he regained consciousness, Sergio found himself looking into the face of a paramedic.

    “Don’t move,” the paramedic ordered. “Just try to stay calm and don’t move. Jesus, you’re damn lucky you were thrown from the engine. It’s amazing, you’re lucky to be alive.”

    In a past life, Sergio had also failed to stop the train. In a past life, he was not so lucky.

  35. Katie Morford
    @KLMorford
    Iron Mistress
    199 words

    They say I’m a run-away train, with lots of flash and smoke and steam. They say I’m nothing but an Iron Mistress, plowing through everything and everyone and leaving rubble in my wake.

    Maybe I am. Maybe I ain’t. I’ll leave that for biddies to decide when I’m mouldering in my grave in my peacock-feather hat. Money don’t grow on trees and milksops only get the cash cow after she’s drained dry. Nothing is free—except maybe me.

    If I’m a runaway train it’s because this land pounded the weakness out of me with every clack of the wheels. A girl leaving a sooty New York orphanage for a hot, harsh land in the grip of the Dust Bowl, who had yet to learn that nothing is free.

    Not even me.

    Now I’m back on that train heading West and if my dress is a tad fancier and my legs lad-fumblers instead of dried sticks, those iron wheels are still pounding this truth home.

    I may be cheap but nothing is free. I sold my soul to buy my freedom. Even freedom isn’t free.
    Say what you might. This train is a’coming. Ain’t nothing gonna stand in her way.

  36. Second Life
    @hollygeely
    209 words

    Samuel was hit by a train.

    Not in the way you might expect. Samuel always followed the rules and would never have crossed railroad tracks when the lights were flashing.

    Rules didn’t stop him from being a miserable old coot, but we’ll get to that later.

    Those watching said the train fell from the sky. In reality, it must have separated from the overpass. It crashed into Samuel’s house and killed him dead.

    A spirit greeted him in the afterlife and offered him a choice.

    “Samuel Jenkins. You shall be given a second chance. You will re-live your life from its conception. This time, however, you must treat others with respect. If you do this, you have a place among us.”

    Samuel was terrified. He didn’t want to be dead, and he certainly didn’t want to go anywhere worse when he died for real.

    The little boy was pleasant and polite and never said a bad word.

    The teenager had plenty of friends.

    The adult developed a bitter streak and left his wife for petty reasons.

    Samuel the old man cursed at passing children and threw sticks at them.

    “When I die, they’ll take me in, or I’ll show them what-for,” Samuel growled.

    Toot, toot, said an oncoming train.

  37. 8:47
    @voimaoy
    210 words

    I know that look, his eyes intense as black suns. Confused, he approaches. Eons pass before he speaks.

    “Does this train go to the airport?”

    He has nothing, no baggage. Nondescript suit. He looks like anyone else on this crowded platform.
    I must not speak to him.

    “Yes,” I say, pretending to study my phone. “It’s the end of the line.”

    The sign on the bank by the station reads 8:45 and the train should be approaching from the west, but there’s water on the tracks and no sign of the 8:47.

    I can feel his eyes on me. How many times have we met before? Two trains rushing head-on collision, we are irresistibly drawn together.

    “I know you,” he says.

    If I look at him, it will start again. I will be trapped in his gravity.

    “I don’t know you,” I say.

    The sign on the bank reads 8:46. There is still no sign of the train.

    He moves closer in the crowd. I can feel him, now, every cell in my body aching to merge with him, obliterating the universe as we know it.

    “I know I loved you once,” he says.

    “I know.” I say. And the stars explode. “Love is all we carry from one life to the next.”

  38. Sometimes Hello Is a Second…or Third…or Fourth Chance
    @talithaarise
    209 Words

    It’s not you. I just… Sure. Thanks for understanding.”

    Phone in hand, I eye my door, searching for the advertisement that must be there. “Join My Train-Wreck Life! Auditions at 5!”

    What’s there is an eviction notice. Paper crinkles as my forehead drops, weighted by recollection.

    Country bumpkins smiling angelically while steamrolling your job. Boyfriends embodying illegality, bringing police running at 3 am. Landlords cutting losses.

    My eyes close, dripping regrets, because it’s not the first. First job cost my virginity. My initial boyfriend chased rainbows off High Bridge. The rudimentary slumlord disguised death traps.

    I twist down the door. It’s not even the second. Second position left me sleepless and haunted. Rebound boyfriend had hot breath and hotter fists. Short-circuiting wires set aflame the subsequent bungalow.

    My head drops to my knees. Everything I touch reduces to crunched metal.

    “Umm. Hello.” I glare up to see timidity incarnate.

    “Yeah? Whatcha want?”

    “You want some coffee? Or maybe food?”

    “Really? Looking for a charity case?”

    You’d think I’d slapped her. “You look like maybe you need a friend.”

    “No thanks. Been screwed by enough “friends” in my time.”

    Tim.id.ty nods and starts shuffling away.

    “But I could use some food.” A grim smile envelopes my face. “If you’re paying.”

  39. Monde de Rêve (Realm of Dreams)

    Marie stood by the newspaper stand in the ice-chilled autumn air awaiting her husband’s return with the evening papers. Pulling her jacket round herself, hoping he would hurry his pick-up, pain steadily throbbed behind eyeballs frozen in a dream, a memory, a feeling of – something long ago. Her mind adrift on a shadow of ethereal memory, he returned, pulling her from the eerie sensation.

    “Look hon, today’s’ headline: ‘Train #721 Jumps Tracks off Paris Bridge, October 22, 2015.’ The article states, it’s eerily similar to a derailment back in 1895 in Granville-Paris where it killed a woman named Marie with falling debris. That train was #721! Can you believe it? One-hundred and ten years to the day. Horrible!”

    “I need to go,” was all she could muster as the ethereal memory clicked inside of her, but it was shadowy. She left her husband scratching his head.

    Walking home, the nebulous pieces of déjà vu popped into her consciousness. She wore grimy Turkish Trousers and a torn fitted waistcoat, her curly ginger halo pulled into a bun at her nape, smudges of Newsprint ink on her cheekbones and fingertips, looking towards the #721 falling on top of her. Her life spared . . . this time.

    @PattyannMc
    205 words

  40. .Excuses
    (208 words)

    “Jesus Christ, what in the damn hell did you do this time Frank?”

    “it ain’t my fault Billy. I did all the right things. I pulled the brake lever and throttled down, but the engine, she just kept going. Hell, I swear these engines have it out for me.”

    “Frank this is the third train you dun wrecked in 4 months.”

    “Shoot Billy, I see it more like this is third time a train has tried to kill me in the last four months. It’s unsettling, sometimes you get in that engine and you get a shiver down your back.”

    “Frank, you’re always saying every time you wreck a train. It’s always the engine’s fault. You make it sound like you had the devil himself shoveling the coal.”

    “I swear Billy; it’s just like all the other times the trains wrecks. It felt like the same things were happening all over again. I just knew something wasn’t right with this engine. It was like, what’s that fancy word the French have for when you have a funny feeling something is going to happen, but you ain’t quite sure about it?”

    “It ain’t déjà vu Frank and it ain’t no fault of the train. You’re just a lousy engineer.”

  41. Foy S. Iver
    @fs_iver
    WC: 209

    Therapy

    It starts as a tickle – like a sneeze – at the core of your brain. Feel it? Without a nasal passage, the sneeze has to dissolve, of course. It’s all gray matter and glands up there. The tickle slides down your skin, activating the follicles and raising bumps on your arms. Your brain scans short- and long term memory files.

    Back aching. Feet moaning. Stomach swelling.

    These details you pin to the mental corkboard and continue burrowing for more. Where and why will be impossible to track down because there is no where and why. Only the perception that they existed.

    Car rattling. Pain searing. Lights whirling.

    The sneeze-tickle fizzles out and trickles into the seams of your consciousness. Unease is quite common but don’t let this bother you. Decapitated memories are false and should never be reconstructed.

    You sobbing. Teeth cracking. White-coats shouting.

    The mind will try to track the origin of the phenomenon: a train station, a hospital, a maternity ward. It will grasp at anything it believes is the trigger.

    “Replenished blood loss.” “Performed CPR.” “Unfortunately, unsuccessful.”

    But science shows they’re ungrounded, free floating images and sensations that have no inciting incident.

    “My baby? Someone, please. Give me my baby.”

    Nothing to worry over. It’s all natural.

  42. Family Outing

    208 words

    @el_Stevie
    #Flashdogs

    The Oneiroi hovered greedily over the bed.

    “It’s my turn,” said Morpheus, roughly pushing his brother aside. “You gave the last one nightmares.”

    “Well that is my job,” said Phobetor. “And mother said we needed the practise.”

    Their mother. Nyx. She terrified him. Best get on with it. Morpheus gazed down at the slumbering man, carefully fashioning his dream, the warning of the disaster to come, the journey he should not make.

    “Hey, pack it in.”

    Phantasus, his younger brother had elbowed his way into the dream. “I haven’t had a turn yet. Mother said to share …”

    Morpheus sighed in frustration, he hoped that he’d done just enough for the man.

    ***

    A disturbed night had made Graham Marten late for work. He paused briefly as he stepped onto the railway platform and surveyed the sleek engine. There was an odd familiarity about it, even though he’d never travelled this way before. Graham shook himself, ridiculous.

    He got on the train.

    ***

    “Do you think Morpheus will be angry?” Phantasus asked his mother, as they surveyed the carnage.
    “I shouldn’t worry, dear. By the time he wakes up, he’ll have forgotten everything about it.”

    Then Nyx filled Morpheus’ flagon with water from the river Lethe. Just to make sure.

  43. Going off the Rails
    (210 words)

    Maisie settled back in her seat, the arc of the rails throwing her up against the door of the carriage. The enormous dog and the bear weren’t so lucky though. They both fell into the well between the seats, vibrating tinnily against the floor as the train clattered over the joins between each section of track.

    The guardsman waved, a mute observer to the commotion, his gaze fixed firmly ahead.

    The tiny train hit the straight again, picking up speed as the carriages left the bend. Maisie shifted once more, feeling sick as the centrifugal forces eased. Then another long curve, a straight and yet another bend followed, the dog and the bear rolling over and under one another as the engine whirred on.

    The guardsman waved, a mute observer to the commotion, his gaze fixed firmly ahead.

    Waiting for the next straight, Maisie timed her leap perfectly, her feet breaking free of the metal rail they’d been wedged beneath. Cartwheeling through the air, everything became a blur; the engine and its three carriages somersaulting above and beneath her until she hit the ground, rolling and tumbling until she slammed into the fortuitously placed stand of trees preventing her from falling over the cliffs again.

    The toy engine carried on.

  44. The ‘Tween
    199 words
    personalvapes@gmail.com

    After all the stories, dire predictions and mass hysteria spoon-fed to me my entire life…Hell disappoints…

    Again.

    The end this time was – literally – a train wreck. The Budget Bullet jumped its tracks and flew, screaming passengers and all, into a flaming, no-survivors fireball of incandescent melting steel, acrid burning plastics and scorched flesh.

    Death was sudden and slippery – transitory – like the sharp tug of a knife cutting your finger, but in reverse. For me – this transition was nothing more remarkable than a bump and a warm flash.

    And I landed here…in Hell.

    Everything is unsettlingly familiar, yet muted, washed out. The terrace I visited every Saturday – to flirt with the waitresses and consume coffee and scones, is just out of focus. The heavy wrought-iron lamp-posts dotting the curb are not quite solid. The cobbled streets smoothly imprint on the feet. I walk my favorite lane with the millions of other milling dead souls, see the ghost of myself at rock wall upon which I stole my first kiss.

    A hint of decay teases my nostrils.

    There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. There is only this ‘tween – where we wait for new bodies.

    The birthplace of deja-vu.

  45. @stellakateT

    Time for Change
    (218 words)

    “I have been here before”

    Joe shrugged his shoulders and sighed. Each day he had less patience. Each time I spoke his shoulders hung lower. Soon he’d be slithering on the pavement like the belly of a snake. Why did he never believe me? Nine times out of ten I was right.

    “Remember that time at Orly airport I told you not to get on that plane. You said if we didn’t catch it we’d miss the connecting flight. Those poor people all dead”.

    “I saved your life” I muttered into my scarf. It was cold and I wound the scarf tightly around my face. You could hardly see my features. I wasn’t a beauty. My Mother said the gift was more important than looking like Barbie, my favourite doll.

    It seemed strange to be back in Paris, we timed slipped so often that sometimes I didn’t know where I was. Joe never cared for my gift but somehow he’d become part of it.

    I watched him slouching off, visualizing what was going to happen. I had time to warn him. I didn’t. The train failed to stop, plunging through the front of the station it, came to a halt with its face embedded in the pavement where Joe had just been.

    I had been here before Joe.

  46. Fire In The Belly
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    208 words

    It wasn’t the first time she’d survived a train wreck.

    At seven, she’d watched her father drown in the bottle. At twenty-one, she’d done the same.

    Clean two years later, she’d found The One. They’d set a date. July 21st. Then he’d set his sights on someone else.

    He hadn’t known she was pregnant. Seven months after he’d left, their son arrived. 7:21 a.m. Stillborn.

    She never told him. Never told anyone. She’d returned to the bottle, returned to the battle.

    The eviction notice fell from her fingers. How had she let it happen? No job. Now no home.

    She couldn’t help but feel she’d been here before. The same mistakes. The same helplessness. The same anger. She always returned here.

    She studied the bottle in her hand. The invitation still tacked to her wall. The sonogram pictures stashed carefully behind it.

    She smashed the bottle. Tore the invitation in half. Tears streaming down her face, she packed away the pictures. The memories. The pain.

    She was tired of bringing up the rear, tired of life constantly derailing her.

    She lit the suitcase on fire.

    It was time for a new course.

    She’d build her own tracks. She’d become her own engineer.

    She walked out.

    Smiling.

  47. “Choo-Choo”
    by Michael Seese
    210 words

    “Pull back! Pull back!”

    “I can’t stop it!” Jim gasped. “We’re going too fast!”

    “You have to. The bridge is out.”

    “What are we going to do? We’re doomed!”

    “Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane…”

    Indeed, a plastic figure in blue tights, red cape trailing, swooped in and under the toy engine, saving the day.

    “Yay! Superman!”

    “Mikey, this is the old West. Superman wasn’t around yet.”

    “Oh, Dad! He flew really fast, and went back in time. That’s how he was able to save the train.”

    Now it makes sense. Say, wouldn’t that be great? To be able to go back and change things?”

    “What disaster would you stop, Dad?”

    Jim paused. “That’s a tough one, buddy. There have been so many. It’s hard to pick only one.”

    “I’d save the Titanic.”

    “That would be a great choice.”

    The dreaded popup on his cell phone caught Jim’s attention.

    “Mikey, it’s time to go. I need to get you to Mommy’s house. Please pick up the train, so it’s ready to go when you come back next Friday.”

    “I will. I don’t want to be bad.”

    “Bad?”

    “Yeah. Mommy always says, ‘Only bad people make messes and expect someone else to clean them up.’ “

  48. Temps Perdu
    (207 words)

    If she had not loved men with dark hair and blue eyes.
    If she had never married a man with a newspaper stand.
    If she had listened when her father said a proper shop was in a building with walls.
    If she had not loved Maxim anyway.
    If Auguste had not been on the way, due in April.
    If people did not love to have something to read on the train.
    If she had not lost her favorite hat. Or had found it sooner.
    If the Sophie had come to watch the children fifteen minutes later.
    If she had not waited for the carriages to pass.
    If Maxim had not hurt his back trying to lift more bundles than he knew he could.
    If she had said close the stand for a day.
    If the stand was not the most desirable one, nearest the station.
    If the conductor had not lost time with late important passenger.
    If the train had not been speeding so fast.
    If there had been less paperwork.
    If the engineer had only applied the handbrake.
    If she had not been listening to old man complaining of the price of his newspaper.
    If she had only heard the groaning of the wall,, and ran.

    • Remarkably fine imagining of the remarkable, true details of this train crash, especially that the only person killed was a woman hit by falling masonry as she stood in for her husband at his newspaper stand while he went to collect papers.
      I considered using these facts to write a story but it would not have been anywhere near as succinct yet, at the same time, expansive, as this. Great stuff, Eliza.

    • If I had not spent an hour reading through all these stories I would not have read this terrific piece.

  49. Upload Speed
    210 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    The tablet screen glares up toward the ceiling, a cold pdf centerpiece. The spicy tang of tom-yum soup goes bland in my mouth.

    “Please sign it, Dad.”

    Trina’s face glows with speeding-train excitement–as it had at last week’s graduation speech, when she articulated her admiration for you. I balanced my butt cheeks between two seats so yours wouldn’t seem so empty.

    She was four when you uploaded, promising to be back for dinner. But time races along a different track beyond the body’s horizon. You managed a return to meat-space for her fifth birthday, answered her candle wishes with assurances of more visits.

    “What if she’s not… there?”

    Trina takes my hand, warm as a heartbeat, and shakes her head. I’m just a commuter scurrying for cover as the express careens through the station.

    “She is.” She closes her eyes. Her smile broadens as she exhales. “I still feel her.”

    I taught her that. Eight years old, waking in a fever sweat, crying out for you, her pixelated parent. Don’t worry, Tee. Mommy’s all around us. Close your eyes…

    I enter my thumbprint.

    “I’ll come back for curry nights!” she promises.

    That leaves me, the poor bastard on the platform, sure he’s witnessing another crash, and not a flight.

  50. M.R. Hawks
    @sagatiaej
    @mrhawks
    Word Count: 210

    The Train Wreck
    The slap slap slap of sneakers and twang of rubber hitting cement, caused our heads to turn. Bodies thudded against bodies. Sweat hung under flared nostrils as men fought for control of the ball. They stopped and tugged on water bottles while girls crowded sidelines. Pursed lips and shining mounds peaked over low cut T’s. High heels extenuated ass cheeks, as they bent and swung bodies under hungry eyes.
    “It’s so easy for them.” It was like constant deja vu. A voice pepped up beside her, snapping sharp gum through blunt teeth.
    “Goin’ on about that again Bo? Why don’t you be glad for what God gave ya and quit complainin’. You ain’t sick or dead. You just be whinin’ like a little girl who be given a station for her birthday instead of a train. You ain’t got no train, so you best cut the shit. You can sit here all dang day, but I’m gonna go get me mine. Maybe I’ll get lucky today and get myself a BIG freight train!” She laughed and sauntered off.
    “Ya, train wreck. This isn’t black and white Amy.” Bo decided not to tell her. She didn’t want to be talked out of it. She turned and headed for the reassignment clinic.

  51. “Don’t Worry, Little One”
    by Michael Seese
    199 words

    Seeing my baby sleeping, I couldn’t help but think of a number of “firsts.”

    The first time she slept in her own room. I’m not sure who was more scared.

    Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine in the morning. You’ll see.

    Or the first time I took her to the ER. She tripped on the rug one afternoon, and split open her chin on a toy choo-choo.

    Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine in a few days. You’ll see.

    Or the first time a boy broke her heart. Split it wide open, on Prom Night, no less.

    Don’t worry, little one. Everything will be fine. Not tomorrow. Maybe not even next week. But in time. You’ll see.

    I suppose among all those vignettes, her first trip to the ER seems most vivid right now. Though in time, I probably won’t be able to recall it all, as the memory will be supplanted by this one.

    Her last trip to the ER.

    We eventually would come to learn she sent a text.

    “Brandon is racing a train to the crossing! This is what it means to be alive!”

    Don’t worry little one. Everything will be …

  52. Never a Dull Trip for Miss Seaforth
    A.J. Walker

    Bertha Seaforth grew up in awe at the world and if she wasn’t out in it she spent her time pouring over atlases and travelogues. She loved to travel and any means that would get her to “B” the quickest.

    Her first ever train journey ended rather catastrophically when the locomotive careered through the Paris station scything through the onlookers like a hot knife through butter. Bertha somehow stepped onto the platform just a little dusty whilst the chaos exploded around her.

    Bertha avoided trains after that.

    In 1910 she bought a Ford Model-T (black of course). During her first journey in it she met with one Joshua Arbutnot on the Brighton road. The meeting was a rushed affair and resulted in the first recorded appearance of a ‘go faster’ stripe on the new Ford. Although Joshua contributed greatly to the spray of scarlet along the side of the vehicle he didn’t live to see the result.

    Bertha avoided cars after that.

    After many years without traveling beyond walking distance Bertha decided it was time to risk a long trip and she boarded the Hindenberg with much excitement.

    Looking back on her life she concluded her life was blessed not cursed – though the contrary opinion was probably more valid.

    (210 words)
    @zevonesque

  53. La Bete Humaine

    The past ruptures into the present in this tableau. A serenade of resentment embodied in the silhouette of my father’s bulk looming over my mother.

    The beast inside she called it. A thing that lurked deep and dark. As a child this darkness was like the Hulk, shredding my father much like the purple trousers that ruptured across Ferringo’s thighs on Saturday nights. He would sit beside me as the television flickered, Mother flustering in the kitchen, his words bitter, like the beer that tainted his breath.

    At eighteen I fled to a city that swallowed me whole. Vowing to escape, forging new connections and history. The streets were remorseless. On those nights too unbearable for sleep I would retreat to a smoke filled Soho cinema where, amidst the reels of cheap porn and cheaper patrons, existed the odd classic or two.

    One night the beast arose in monochrome. A man of infinite rage, a train driver, whose iron horse hurtled him towards an inevitable destination, as did the violence that tainted his soul.

    That night I vowed to find salvation.

    Finally resurrected in the warmth and love of an angel.

    Yet now the scene plays out again.

    As she lies bloodied at my feet.

    Begging forgiveness.

    @imageronin
    #solsticeiscoming

    208 words

    • That second paragraph digs right in. You have beautifully, painfully illustrated the idea that a movie (or any work of art) might inspire the desire for great change–but then ultimately fail as a catalyst. As tragic as it is genuine.

  54. Title: “Geniusproof”
    210 Words

    I have a plan. A plan to create the capstone of innovation, the pinnacle of science.
    All of humanity’s inventions have culminated in this testament to our greatness.
    The old salt mine has served me well in space and solitude and “misfiled” tax returns helped spin turbines and rewrite reality’s bylaws. I’ll send the taxpayers a gift basket for their help. Or perhaps a dinosaur bone. Both are possible now.
    Caterpillar eyebrows aloft, my colleague had asked me, “How does it work?”
    “Very well,” I returned.
    He shook his head and left me.
    But won’t he feel silly when I show up at his birthday party five years ago?
    So now I am ready, ready to prove all the doubters wrong. The chamber is close around me, like a womb ready for rebirth…. and there’s nobody else here to throw the lever. Oh well, nothing a broom can’t solve. Perhaps I’ll even take it with me and pretend to be a witch in King Arthur’s time.
    I stretch until the broom hovers over the trigger of destiny which lays cool and steady in steel.
    Here comes the future…

    I have a plan—
    I have a plan—
    I have a plan—
    I have a plan—
    I have made a grave mistake.

  55. Widdershins
    208 Words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    Irwin looked at the train station and then back at his directions Elana had given him. She’d been very specific when she’d written them, and though she didn’t say it, he knew it was important he follow them exactly.

    “Follow Emerson Ave to the train station,” he said, then looked at the street sign. “Check.”

    ‘Walk around the building, widdershins.’

    He sighed and consulted his phone. “Widdershins…” he muttered into the phone.

    “Widdershins, adverb, Scottish in origin,” the phone told him in a prim voice. “In a direction contrary to the to the sun’s course. Counter clockwise… Considered unlucky… decreasing…”

    “Widdershins,” he sighed.

    He turned and started circling the building counterclockwise.

    He’d gone maybe half a block he heard the horrific, unmistakable sound of a 20 car pile-up, complete with screams. He was about to turn, when he felt a flash of pain go through his head then vanish.

    With an odd feeling of having been there before, he knew, some how, that a train had jumped its tracks and he was certain that, had he gone straight he’d have been killed.

    He looked back down at the directions, and blinked.

    “Continue south on Emerson.”

    He stared at the building in disbelief, then headed south as directed.

  56. Every Day at Four
    (207 words)

    The old man’s hand reaches out, seizing empty air. He pulls back, his eyes fixed, his brow furrowed with effort.

    “Monsieur Le Blanc’s having his spell,” nurse Jean tell the new doctor. The young man nods, glancing at the clipboard, but not really looking.

    He’s fascinated by the smile, a look of pure joy that transfigure’s the patient for a moment, as a burst of late afternoon sunshine warms his features.

    “Every day at four in the afternoon, without fail,” she continues. “For fifteen years now.”

    “But he always smiles? He always looks this happy?”

    “He’s stopped the train. Look, he’s relaxing now.”

    “The notes say he was found guilty of negligence. What was his penalty?”

    “The driver was fined fifty francs. Henri LeBlanc was fined twenty-five francs. He was doing some paperwork, he said.”

    The doctor shook his head, making a soft “tsk” noise as he wrote on the clipboard.

    “So every day, this poor man relives that moment? Out of guilt?”

    “It’s real to him, Dr. Reneau. He sees the train rushing at the station wall. I’ve heard him speak about it. It as if he’s there again, at the controls, every day.”

    “What is that he’s saying?”

    “Forgive, Madame Aguilard. She died that day.”

  57. Deja Vu, All Over Again

    This cannot be happening again, but here I am at the scene of more mayhem, more people standing around staring, pointing, wondering. It is not deja vu anymore. It is beyond a spot of bad luck. Rather, I believe the universe does not want me to ride trains.

    Why, you ask?

    Let us enumerate the reasons. October 14, 1984, as I slept in my compartment, my train collided with a freight train in Yorkshire.

    Barely two months later, December 22, a wagon derails on the tracks in Chelford, and my train strikes it and also derails.

    The new year was no better. My train derails between Doublebois and Bodmin Road. Later that year, I take an excursion train, and when we reach Herne Bay in Kent a freight train collides with us.

    English trains are obviously far too dangerous. I move to France. Today, October 23, 1985, I took the express train to Paris, and it is going too fast when we enter the station at Gare Montparnasse. I am certain you will see the grisly pictures.

    No more trains. It is practically the 20th century, after all. Time to step into the modern era of travel.
    I hear that Herr Zeppelin’s airships will be the safest way to go.

    210 Words
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)

  58. Trainwreck
    206 words

    Alonso raced headlong toward the platform. The station’s clocktower chimed quarter past noon. Strangers filled the sidewalks outside the station. Workers on lunchbreak, street performers, and mothers on outings with their children strolled breezily, unaware of the coming catastrophe.

    “No! Look out!” A primal scream bellowed from Alonso’s lungs, drowned entirely by the sudden wail of the train whistle. Too late, he realized as his hue and cry were answered by sudden shouts of the crowd. He fell to the concrete platform floor, hands folded in prayer.

    His tears mercifully blurred his vision to the oncoming carnage. The flash and crashing roar of the impact shook him to his core like a shot to the heart. Choked by acrid smoke, he stumbled through the wreckage of ruined lives, his own tears mixing with blood of the lost innocents. Too late.

    Alonso had seen it too many times before. An engine driven by hate and fueled by fury. An unstoppable force speeding toward disaster along cold steel tracks. Visions of each catastrophe flashed through his mind, and for each wreck, the missed opportunities for salvation. A driver asleep at the switch. A faulty brake line. Too many missed signals. Too many warnings unheeded. Too many ruined lives.

  59. Foy S. Iver
    @fs_iver
    WC: 205

    Of Night and Light and the Half Light

    He keeps it reverberating against the walls of his mind, each word a bead pinched between praying fingers. How many times has he recited it within, afraid to lose the last puzzle piece?

    Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths
    Enwrought with golden and silver light

    In the beginning, he would performed it for the women of Spring Arbor as the sun died. Standing tall, his hollow bones resisted time’s unforgiving hand, until gravity won. A chair was brought.

    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half light

    Next the stroke burst through age-weak vessels like an iron horse through concrete. No more recitations. His tongue lies languid behind lips, dry and thick with atrophy, with aphasia.

    I would spread the cloths under your feet
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams

    He sits, recycling the last of himself: one stanza, eight lines, harder to recall each sunrise. Syllables sear themselves into fading neurons as the world dims.

    I have spread my dreams under your feet
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

    Has he seen this day already? It feels like the last.

    Had I the heavens’
    Had I the heavens’
    Had I the heavens’

  60. Repeated Salutations
    210 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    Swan dive forward.
    I dive into love (and into bed) with him without testing the waters. Can you blame me? Look at that dark brood, right out of eighteenth-century poetry. My sketchbook fills with studies of his eyes. Be still my beating hormones.

    Jump back into crocodile.
    He disappears for days at a time. I bite back care and throw myself into painting. Unforgiving slashes of purple, red, black. He inspects the work and says I should cut down on the wine. I grit my teeth.

    Up dog.
    I pull myself from passion’s wreckage, howling as twisted metal rakes my heart. I detail my pain in oils and then lie in wait for the next denigrating word that I might tear off his face with my teeth.

    Down dog.
    His apathetic silence gnaws at my bones. I haunt a world without color. A tortured canvas frowns at my attempts.

    Bend your knees. Hop forward.
    He races off down the twilit highway. I might as well be road-kill. At last, something to rail against. I crash headlong into my easel until I have enough for a show.

    Back to mountain pose.
    From across the gallery, his dark gaze tunnels into my heart. Hello, again. I welcome the next devastating swan dive.

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