Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 33

WELCOME, O Writers and O the Delight of My Eyes, to Flash! Friday!!!!  What a joy it’s been seeing first-timers take the dragon crown four of the past five weeks, and right in the middle of that, 4-timer Phil Coltrane nabbed his 5th win. It’s a wonderful blend of new and familiar, just like the trove of stories you write each week, and I can’t wait to be amazed again this round. Thank you for being here!

A quick side note of thanks to the many of you who offered suggestions for my Scrabble game last weekend. I’m delighted to report I eked out the win this time — 337 to 331 — a nailbiter to the very end. (Rather like flash, eh??)

WALL OF FLAME!!! After today, there’s just one more chance to write a story toward your July Ring of Fire badge. This year is going fast. Can you believe we’re fewer than 20 weeks until Flashversary III!? A big huge contest with prizes, and a fabulous Ring of Fire prize basket, loom. Wall of Flame details here.


DC2***WELCOME OUR NEWEST NEW JUDGES*** This week it’s a pleasure to welcome our final new team of judges: Dragon Team Eight, the crushingly clever captains Voima Oy & A.J. Walker.  If you know Voima’s writing, it will not surprise you to hear she prefers stories that are vivid, daring, and evocative, whether they tend toward humorous or heartbreaking. A.J., however, provided a long list of Things That I Like In Stories, including chortles and guffaws, and then immediately wadded up the list and warned you not to listen to him for heaven’s sake; follow your own star!   


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

* Today’s required word count: 250 words exactly (250 words EXACTLY, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (this week 250 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, 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.


This week’s novel inspiration: The Arabian Nights, a collection of ancient Middle Eastern folktales. Among the more famous of these stories are Sinbad the Sailor, Scheherazade, Aladdin, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. My personal favorite since childhood is The Talking Tree, the Singing Bird, and the Golden WaterRead it and fall in love with the rich language of this gorgeous and beloved storytelling form.

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please do not use copyrighted characters). Genies and magical lamps optional but encouraged. 🙂

* Conflict: varies; often man vs man or man vs self
Character (choose one): street urchin, adventuring sailor, girl unaware of her true heritage
Theme(s) (choose one): Rags to riches, justice, forgiveness
Setting: ancient Persia

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

Sinbad the Sailor. Illustration by Frances Brundage, published 1898 in The Arabian Nights, edited by George Fyler Townsend.

Sinbad the Sailor. Illustration by Frances Brundage, published 1898 in The Arabian Nights, edited by George Fyler Townsend.

304 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 33

  1. Family Secrets
    249 words

    “Beloved, it would be better not to step with unclean feet upon that .”

    Vashti urges Hussein to remove his sandals before treading on her small red carpet.

    “Where did you acquire this threadbare treasure?” he asks.

    “It is a wedding gift from my mother.”

    Hussein notices another object in their tiny parlor. It is a small brass lamp, dented on one side.

    “And this ugly thing?” he asks, reaching to pick it up. “Is it from the same source? A family heirloom?”

    “Don’t call it ugly,” Vashti protests, “And don’t hurt it!”

    She bats his hand away before he touches it.

    Hussein scowls. “Do not strike me, wife. Why should I not touch what is in my own home?”

    “I only did that to protect you,” she says, backing away a step. “The lamp is magical.”

    “I do not believe in magic,” he says.

    “Oh but you must! You said you knew the old stories all by heart!”

    “You were so beautiful. I would have told you anything to win you,” says Hussein, smiling. “Those stories are nonsense.”

    “Please do not say that again!” Vashti says. Her dark eyes are full of hidden fires. “Sit down, Hussein.”

    “What is the matter?” he asks.

    “Now that I am married, my mother told me our family secrets today. Who I am,” she begins,. “Once long ago my ancestress Scheherazade married the Sultan of Persia, who had killed all his wives on their wedding nights . . . .”


  2. Josh Bertetta
    250 Words
    Elements Used: Setting and Theme

    Like a little laawa wind, Rahim swayed back and forth, back and forth, in tandem with the tabla’s slow beat. Something like a disc, something akin to the dancing woman’s dress, spun, whirling and whirling, careening faster and faster about heart. The music whipped forward and propelled the poor youth toward the verge, the verge of something, something of the rose, of the…

    He opened his eyes: particles of light floating from the singer’s mouth trundled through the audience and lifted, the audience, took them by the hands, and sent them spinning. Cinnamon gold on his lips, the disc around his heart spun vertical and again, he opened his eyes. His vision thin, starlight emptied itself through dilated spaces, connecting everyone to everything.

    “Music!” screamed the singer, a brilliant white butterfly taking shape in the light, “is your friend; your only friend.

    Rahim rose, and spun.

    Finding his nectar sweet, the butterfly plunged its proboscis deep. Rahim moaned. Deeper it sunk.
    Deeper still.

    Then, it stopped.

    It stopped at something small and hard, flat and fleshy. Rushing headlong into Rahim with all the passion and all the love, as the sarangi and the tablas drove the music into a toe-curling, back-arching rapture and the woman’s voice reached its climax, the butterfly broke through and the everything, the everything Rahim once feared wanted to obliterate him, the forgiveness that had been there always and already, hunkered down and waiting, came rushing forth in one monstrously supernal upsurge of heart-ravishing habromanic consummation.


  3. Genie Jones

    I scared.

    Scared like that time Old Tim takes us to sea and throws me in. Sister Jones, she’s five, she screaming like a dozen Zoo monkeys, she’s flopping all over the boat, banging her head.

    Crazy Tim is chuckling up a storm; I’m flapping in the waves, choking on the pissy salt sea water that is scrambling down my breathe hole.

    “Why?” I keep yelling.
    “Why?” he yells back.

    He’s clobbering Sister Jones with an oar, trying to end her crashing about. I’m sinking but the fat waves are flipping me up enough to see the blood spurting out of her head.

    “I’ll tell you why, princess. You are a weight, an irredeemable, milk carton weight. Your priceless picture is shining in every bloody supermarket in the land. You and this mackerel are death to me. The piggies are coming and you have outlasted your worth.”

    That time, a glorious giant wave slapped me away from Crazy Old Tim.

    The sail boat, the handsome sailor, he find me, he swing me aboard and we breeze across the ocean to Tahiti.

    He becomes my father; my lover; my brother of the sea.

    We fish; we discover magic metal in the fine tan sand; we swim in the coral green sea.

    I scared.

    They are forty demons; pirates from the Portal to Hell.
    They boarded us at Diamond Beach where we often moor.
    The handsome sailor has been chopped to fish bait.
    Forty demons are set to plunder me.

    I scared.

    250 thieves of time
    Character : girl unaware of her true heritage
    Conflict: varies


  4. Tough Customer
    250 words exactly
    Plot elements: street urchin, forgiveness, ancient Persia

    “Kill the dragon.”


    “I wish for you to kill the dragon that has terrorized Persia for the last ten years.”

    The djinn frowned, not a frown of anger but a frown of trying to figure out how to tell your boss that you can’t do what he wants. “Master? That’s not a dragon. That’s the incarnation of Tiamat. She woke up in a very foul mood. And before you say it, I can’t kill Tiamat even if you wish for it. Djinni have their limits, too. Why don’t I just make you a rich sultan with your own little kingdom instead? It would certainly be a change from the street urchin look you have going on, there.”

    The boy said, “No, that won’t help. Let me think about it.”

    “Of course, Master. I was only in that bottle for three thousand years. Take all the time you need.”

    “I’m ready for my wish, djinn.”

    “Yes, Master?” the djinn asked, hoping for something easy.

    * * *

    Aboard his flying carpet, the boy soared right up in front of Tiamat’s eyes.

    “A flying snack,” the goddess growled.

    “Mighty Tiamat!” the urchin shouted. “I have something to say before you devour me!”

    “What is it, mortal boy?”

    “You killed my family!”

    “And you’ve come to curse me?” Tiamat laughed.

    “No,” the urchin said, his voice lowered to a whisper. “I forgive you.”

    With a scream, Tiamat found herself banished back to her watery realm.

    * * *

    “Okay, djinn.,” the urchin said. “Now for my SECOND wish.”


  5. @ParklandDavid
    250 words (honest!)
    Character, theme and setting (kind of)


    She gazed up. Eyes ladles of hope.

    “It’s enough?”

    “This is all you have?”

    She couldn’t meet his gaze.

    “Then it’s enough. For now.”

    She began to thank him but he silenced her with a bejewelled hand. “It’s enough for this one time. After that we need to talk about ways you can pay your way, yes?”

    Now she did meet his gaze, but only briefly. Her lips thinned as she nodded.

    “It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” The smile broke across his face like a new day. “The flying carpet gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a bird. You’ll soar in the clear sky and laugh as you look down on all this filth.”

    A tiny nod. “I want to touch the clouds.” she said, more to herself.

    He guided her past his little counter into the darkness of the back room. There were legs under her, almost invisible in the shadows after the stark intensity of the single bulb.

    “Over here.” he guided her past the dry bodies. “You see?”

    She did see. Three little grey mats lay unoccupied by the far wall; waiting.

    “Take your pick!” he said. “Get comfortable, eh? It’ll be a long ride.”

    She lowered herself to the floor, noting that, at least the mats were dry.

    “This is your first flight?” he asked.

    Jasmine nodded, rolling up her tired bundle and placing it under her head as a pillow.

    “Relax.” he smiled. “It’s easy. Just give me your arm.”



    Brian S Creek
    250 words

    Conflict (man vs man)
    Theme (Justice)


    “I wanted an end to the conflict,”


    “No! You’ve taken away everything I care about! Where are my friends? Where are my loved ones?


    “By genocide? You’ve rid my country of her people! We’re not all terrorists. You must undo it.”


    “No! There must be another way.”


    “You don’t understand! My beloved nation is now exposed. The entire Middle East will be stripped bare by western greed.”




    “What? No. That can’t be. What have you done?”


    “But I’m still here.”


    “Then what do I do now?”


    “No, wait. You can’t leave me like this. You, you must need me to exist. Surely you need humans to make wishes. Otherwise, otherwise you have no purpose.”



  7. “And then there was peace…”
    by Joey To

    Haleema squinted at the scroll on the armrest of her throne. “Next.”

    An old man with a greying beard entered, hugging a wood box. He bowed.

    Smiling, he took out a golden lamp, dull but unblemished. “Your Majesty, I believe you know of this artefact.”

    The guards exchanged glances.

    The queen frowned… then sighed. “Professor, any other soul know of this discovery?”

    The Master Blacksmith wiped his sweaty forehead with a rag. “Two of my men died stoking the furnace. It’s no use.”

    Queen Haleema glowered at the artefact. Still dull but no defects. No deformations.

    “Return it to the vault and take care of the men’s families,” she commanded.

    Then she turned to her General. “And our siege preparations?”

    “Done,” the man answered. He opened his mouth again… but closed it.

    “Speak your mind,” said Haleema.

    “According to ancient texts, three requests are possible. Wouldn’t invoking the artefact before the enemy’s arrival be helpful?”

    The queen raised an eyebrow. “History teaches that sorcery is always expensive.”

    “But they’re about to breach!” cried the old man, the lamp in his shaking hands. “It’s my fault, let me save us.”

    The guards clenched their hilts. Haleema remained in her throne. All eyes were on her.

    The Professor kneeled. “Our enemy wants it for ill but not us. Let me wish for peace.”

    “Last time peace was wished, kingdoms ceased to exist,” said the queen, snapping her fingers. “You think we deserve differently?”

    Then a sword unsheathed and the lamp was dropped.


    Word Count: 250
    Conflict: man vs self (i.e. his fallen nature)
    Theme: justice

    Website: http://www.joeytoey.com/


  8. Violets
    (250 words)
    street urchin/ man versus self/ man versus man

    The fatigue of the working day hangs heavy on the summer’s night. Jackets worn to protect against the chill of the early morning air are slung now over already weary shoulders. The workforce has left its air-conditioned offices and its complaint about the still heat is written into its curved posture and lined brow.
    I stop at the paper stand and buy up the evening’s news. I shove in my briefcase word of global events reduced now into manageable columns. On the train, I read about the tearing down of ancient temples and ruminate, until it’s time to disembark, on the broken narrative of stories told through artefact.
    The water seller stands at the entrance of the station. Today, I’ll buy one of his bottles- just to water the plant. His frame is thin though youthful, but for a moment I look into ancient eyes that have seen the spoiled world. He smiles, and I am the rich man who salves my pricked conscience with pounds.
    He calls after me that I should take my change, but I have already rounded the corner, shaken by the pain I have seen in another’s eyes.
    I am in the flat. The radio is playing music from a different decade, and I’ve flung open the balcony doors beckoning distraction from my unsettled thoughts. The heady scent of the violets has me reach for the bottled water I’m too wary to drink, and I catch again the rich man’s hand watering the plant.


  9. Je Souhaite
    250 words – no more, no less
    Street Urchin / Man vs Man (or character vs author!)

    “You rubbed the lamp, you must make the wishes – this is the way of it.”
    “No? NO! Do you not wish to be rich?”
    “I do, but I already know that life’s true riches are not to be found in material wealth and would spare myself that lesson from you.”
    “Well then, little orphan, would you not wish to return your mother from the grave and feel her embrace once again?”
    “I will see her in heaven in good time. Besides, we all read ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ at school.”
    “World peace?”
    “I suspect that the world would grow lethargic and wither like a grape on the vine. Man needs competition and conflict.”
    “I’m starting to suspect you’re a ringer here kid? What gives?”
    “We’re both poorly sketched constructs in Shakes’ mind. He’s read too many stories, seen too many poor horror movies to produce something original. Even the title is from X-Files!”
    “He must have something?”
    “He was going to describe you as someone who sits like a man but smiles like a reptile.”
    “That’s good!”
    “That’s Bowie.”
    “Well, what can we do about it?”
    “I’ve been giving that some thought in the short time we’ve been on the page, and I think I have an idea.”
    “Does it involve wishing?”
    “It has to.”
    “I wish we were both in someone else’s story.”


  10. Once there were Djinn.
    250 words
    Man vs Man / Justice

    Once there were Djinn.
    From a smokeless fire they sprang forth, moving across the earth.
    Hidden from sight, they trod roads less travelled until they’d infected all corners of the globe with impossible promises.
    Avarice, narcissism, naivety and idealism – all were agents in their plans.
    Your wish was their command.
    At first, it went well.
    But Man grew. His intellect evolved and the power of reasoning grew strong.
    What was to stop him wishing for three more wishes?
    This could not be. Clauses were added.
    Man grew tired of myth.
    Those that didn’t die or weren’t wished away retreated to bottles and lamps.
    They did not forget.
    They did not forgive.
    One day they would return, setting man against man, taking their revenge.

    From the fire of learning they sprang forth, spreading across the earth. Hidden in plain sight, they infected all corners of our lives with their impossible promises.
    Avarice, narcissism, naivety and idealism – all were agents in their plans.
    If you had an accident that wasn’t your fault? They would help.
    It went very well.
    The piles of unnecessary litigation reached so high that God Himself took notice.
    There was no more justice, no more forgiveness. Where there was blame, there was a claim.
    Now their kind wore sharp suits and swapped their bottles for glass fronted offices.
    This is the way the world ends – not with a wish, but a summons.
    This is their revenge.
    Once there were Djinn, now there are lawyers.


  11. @AvLaidlaw
    250 Words
    Conflict (man vs self)
    Character ((ex-)adventuring sailor)

    The Old Man of the Sea

    The sailboats in the harbour rock on the swell of the tide, impatient to be released into the sea. The scent of salt is on the breeze. South by southeast. Good sailing weather.

    A barefoot sailor leaps through the tangled rigging, muscles as taut as sails in the wind. “Hey Granddad,” he shouts. Then he notices my silk coat and the gold rings on my fingers. He drops to the deck and bows deeply.

    There’s no need to show respect. He’s young and has adventures stretched out before him as vast and rich as the sea herself, while I’m old man whose knees groan like the hull of an old ship, exiled to the land, my grave waiting in the dry earth. I could tell you tales of my voyages but they’re only ancient stories and would dissipate the moment they left my lips.

    One boat hauls anchor and drifts out of the harbour, and I watch until it vanishes in the shimmering sea. I should go home now. My wife always frets when I’m away too long – she’s afraid I’ve found myself a ship and gone sailing once more. Sometimes I think about it. I love her perfume and softness of her brown eyes but in the cries of the gulls and the shouts of the sailors, in the creak of the rigging and the and the lap of the waves, I hear my name. The sea is a lover who embraces you tightly and will never let go.


      • It’s one of the Sinbad stories where he’s forced to carry the Old Man of the Sea around on his shoulders, coupled with my obsessions with the sea (and ageing). (Quite a few of my stories are riffs on folk tales and legends). Though Hemingway’s always an influence on my writing in general.


    • Always the pull of the sea, even at his age; enjoyed this story and glad that it referred to Sinbad rather than Hemmingway (as someone who spent 2(!) years at school studying The Old Man and The Sea for O-level I was put off him for life. Two years on a novella, how on earth did the examining board work that one out!)


  12. 250
    Ancient Persia
    Rags to riches

    Kashin Hand

    The sweat trickled down Kashin’s neck as the sun beat down with the subtlety of a hammer. He sighed. He would never be a rich man, in this life or the next. Flinching, he pictured his thin mother timidly begging for bread. All he wanted was to bring her comfort.
    In the hot sky, a large bird circled. He jumped as it landed with a heavy bump in front of him, and shuffle-hopped closer.
    ‘No food here, birdy,’ said Kashin. ‘Nothing you’d want, anyway. I’m still alive!’
    ‘Barely,’ croaked the vulture.
    Kashin stumbled in shock, his backside wobbling the rickety wooden frame of his stall.
    ‘You speak, birdy?’ he gasped.
    The vulture nodded, eyeing the tatty stall. ‘What rubbish are you selling?’ it asked.
    ‘These are high quality…’ began Kashin, before the vulture interrupted.
    ‘If it is riches you seek, take me to your Sultan.’
    Kashin’s mouth worked oddly, as he considered the offer. ‘Fine! Let’s go!’
    At the palace, the guards eventually relented, leading them deep inside.
    ‘Your money or your life!’ squawked the vulture.
    Kashin froze in horror, but the Sultan just laughed, his fat belly jiggling. He beckoned to a slave and handed Kashin a chest of gold. ‘I keep it, yes?’
    Kashin nodded, and backed away. The vulture winked at him, and he was transported back in time, back to when he was a boy and his father had winked in the same way.
    ‘Papa!’ he cried as the guards led him out. ‘A thousand thanks!’


  13. Flying

    250 words

    Elements: character (street urchin), justice


    The darkness hid the Basij guards as they moved the body; the carpet, as always, proving a convenient shroud. Swiftly they unrolled the covering, sending its occupant into the depths of a disused mineshaft. Then they turned back to Mahabad.

    The Basij ignored the scruffy boy curled up in the doorway of the buildings flanking the Minister’s home. The tenements had been emptied to allow appropriate landscaping of government property and, occasionally, the homeless would take up residence. Pest control usually dealt with them. The guards paused to enter the gate’s security code. A small shadow slipped unnoticed into the back of their truck.

    Hanis could smell the coppery scent permeating the wool, could trace its pattern of a million eyes even in the gloom; eyes that could no longer see, just like his father, who had also taken a ride in this carpet.

    They had taken everything from Hanis: family, home, hope. But still he could deliver his own justice.

    As a child, his mother had told him a story about a magic carpet which could fly you to the ends of the earth. Woven from gold and silver, it blinded those deemed unworthy to look upon it. Those with a pure heart were flown to Paradise.

    “Your heart is pure,” whispered his mother before she died. “Keep it that way.”

    Hanis clutched the detonator tighter; imagined flying amongst the stars as the carpet was hefted by servants back into the house, dreamed of Paradise. He pressed the button.


  14. The Fall of Persia

    The warrior was the last one alive, her comrades fallen or fled. She parried and thrust with her sword, the reward was a disbelieving gasp, a gout of warm blood, another body at her feet.
    She turned to find a wall of men aiming arrows. She prepared to charge, to die taking just one more of the these western invaders with her.
    The command, in her tongue, was clumsy, not a native speaker. She halted, sword raised.
    A man with golden hair curled into thick ringlets stepped before her. His armor was dusty, scored, and bloody. A reflection of her own.
    “You and your troops fought valiantly. What is your name?”
    She said nothing, calculating. Was this Alexander himself? Could she kill him before she was cut down herself? Rid her lands of his scourge.
    “You would not land a blow,” the man said presciently. “If Artaxerxes had armies filled with likes of you I would go back to Greece right now.”
    He looked at a body on the floor and his face saddened. “Nicomedes, did you ponder victory over this warrior too long? Rest in hades, my friend.”
    Looking round he hollered, “Hear this. Anyone who harms this woman dies by my hand.” He turned back talking directly to her, but loud enough for his men to hear. “Since she offers no name of her own, I call her Panoandres, for she has been above all who fought her.”
    He pointed his sword eastwards. “Go in peace, Panoandres.”

    Word Count: 250
    Elements: Theme – Forgiveness; Ancient Persia.


  15. @SalnPage
    Word Count 250
    Character – girl unaware of her true heritage
    Theme – All three … maybe?

    The Ali Baba

    Nan loved this basket. It lived behind her bathroom door for donkey’s years. I wore the lid for dressing up, tying it on with a chiffon scarf and Nan said I looked ‘swanky’. When she put laundry into ‘The Ali Baba’ she’d say ‘Open Sesame!’ lift the lid and fling the clothes inside. Then ‘Close Sesame!’ slamming the lid back and chuckling.
    On wash days Nan would open the basket in the usual manner, take a loofah from edge of the bath and play it like a flute. She’d stop to ask if she’d charmed Granddad’s socks and her stockings out of the basket yet. I just thought she was a bit bonkers but years later I picked a random book in the library and saw where Nan got all this from. I recalled her referring to ‘forty thieves’ and laughing at her own joke about Uncle Cliff and his drinking mates in her bathroom.
    Some of them were thieves. Knocked off gear. Dodgy deals. Accepted round their way. Jobs scare and money tight. But Cliff started selling my mates drugs. Within months my best friend was dead. I told the police everything and Cliff ended up in prison. Nan barely spoke to me again. I missed her daft ways and all the laughter.
    That was over twenty years ago. I never imagined she’d leave me the Ali Baba. Special mention in the will. The basket’s heavy. Something inside for me, apparently. Hope it’s not just ancient laundry. Open Sesame!


  16. @OpheliaLeong
    Character and Setting
    250 words

    The Treasure of Cassim

    The cave shimmered before Rajash’s eyes in the late afternoon heat. His boat slid up against the shore with a crunch of sand, and he jumped off, sweating in anticipation. He had come alone, too swept up in gold fever to search for a crew, and navigated the Caverns of Cassim by himself.
    Now he had reached the treasure cave of Cassim the pirate. He desperately walked around the cave, searching. He went to his knees, digging frantically in the loose gravel.
    Nothing. Not even a gold coin or diamond lying about.
    He slammed his fists on the ground, scattering gravel everywhere, and yelled in frustration. Then he heard a clink from behind. He stood and almost tripped on a rusted old lamp.
    Rajash picked it up gingerly, and rubbed it, trying to make out a symbol. All of a sudden, there was a poof and the scent of jasmine flowers invaded the cave.
    “Cassim, is that you?” asked a hopeful and sultry female voice.
    Rajash stared in wonder at the djinn, a voluptuous female one at that! Her golden eyes were dewy with sleep and her long midnight black hair curled around her body like vines.
    “I am not he, but Rajash the Ruthless, and I am here to save you from the cave!” Rajash announced regally.
    The djinn looked him up and down, her slim eyebrows raised. Then she grinned, teeth gleaming like pearls, and chuckled.
    “I’m going back to sleep. Wake me when a REAL hero comes!”


  17. There Might Only Be Room For One Kind Of Adventure

    Anora enjoyed the way her hair snapped across her face in ribbons. She sped across water that smelled crisper than the freshest apple, and of the kind of salt that could only belong to an ocean.

    Best of all, Anora was alone.
    “I want to get lost,” Anora would cry to her mother.
    “No, my love, lost is bad. Lost is for little girls whose parents don’t love them.”

    Anora disagreed. Lost was for adventurers.
    Lost was unattainable on land, with her sharp-eyed family members determined to keep their wild girl tame. “Come back here”, “Stay there”, “Don’t move”, “Why always so fussy, Anora?”

    At eighteen she waved an un-seen goodbye at her sleeping family and set off to buy a boat.
    Her life’s savings bought her freedom, adventure, and a brand new solitude.

    Suddenly, a large emerald fish jumped into her boat.
    She jumped in surprise then moved to throw it back into the water when it spoke.
    “What’s a nice girl like you doing on a boat like this?”
    Not one to want to thwart whimsy she explained her desire to be alone and lost.
    “I was alone and lost once. Actually, more than once. It’s not as great as you would think. See my cousin, Ben, there was this reef, and he…”
    Anora pitched the fish into the water mid-sentence.

    Magic fish or not, she had goals.
    She sped further across the water in silence, head tipped up to smile at the solitary sun.

    250 words
    Conflict: Man vs. Man (Family or Fish)
    Character: Adventuring sailor




    Brian S Creek
    250 words

    Character (adventuring sailor)
    Theme (rags to riches)

    “Tell me a story.”

    “Okay, my son. I know a good one.

    “Once upon a time there was a young boy called Behrouz. His parents were mean, treating him more like a slave than a son.

    “Behrouz’s mother made beautiful clothes which his father sold at a market across the sea. But, when his father fell ill, Behrouz was forced to cross the sea himself.

    “That night, halfway across the sea, the water began to churn, rocking the boat violently. Before Behrouz knew what was happening, a Great Fish rose up and swallowed the boat whole.”

    “How big was the fish, papa?”

    “Bigger than a castle.”


    “But Behrouz was okay. He lit a lamp and sailed his little boat further into the fish. He wondered if he would ever find a way out when he washed up on the shore of a strange city.”

    “A city?”

    “Indeed. Now the people of the city had never seen such beautiful clothes before and they began to bid for the garments. In no time at all Behrouz had sold everything, making more than enough coin to show for it.

    “The people of the city wanted more and so Behrouz was released from the Great Fish on the promise that he’d return with more from the Outside.”

    “Did he go back, papa?”

    “Perhaps I will tell you tomorrow. For now you need to go to sleep. And I need to load up the boat. Those clothes won’t sell themselves. Good night, little one.”


  19. @betsystreeter
    Conflict: Man/self
    Theme: Forgiveness, Justice
    250 words


    Please bring me along. I can help you.

    I am walking down the sidewalk, clutching my coat and coffee, late for the bus and thus for work.

    My head is stuffed with what-if’s and should-I’s and half-visions for a future that blurs and confuses every time I try to touch it.

    So I stay here in the present, do my job, save money. Maybe get a cat.

    You are mighty. You face down the beasts, cameras and microphones for heads, snapping up your words.

    You emerge through the wide hospital doors, changed forever, torn and transformed into a warrior. Now your speech carries and the air fills with flashes and shouts of admiration. People want to hear what you have to say.

    I will stand at your shoulder, a whole body, intact. I am the gladiator before entering the arena. I am the image of what we protect when we recoil at distant senseless violence.

    I am you, before you.

    I am not made of regret, or terror. I am passed down through infinite generations. I am a body, fashioned by infinite other bodies, a statistical impossibility. Brought here to bear whatever happens to it.

    You are my knight. You speak for me, and for everyone. Even the broken ones. Especially the broken ones.

    Your words find one shattered soul, alone, in the dark. Clutching a weapon, losing hold of the future. A self-made monster.

    But not yet in the arena. Not yet.

    Let me help you both find peace.


  20. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 250 on the nose
    Story Elements: Character (person unaware of his/her true heritage, on the path to self-discovery)/Conflict (person v. self, overcoming)

    Blank Canvas

    I am an artist, and the laptop screen is a canvas awaiting its paint, but I can’t lift the brush. Geniis, princesses, street urchins, and knights march in subdued splendor across the mural, but now, they’ve stayed abed. “Why should we listen to you?” they shout. “We make our own destinies.”

    I am a dreamer. Cold defeat washes through me when I wake from my dreams of painting epics, rendering legends. Discouragement blackens my vision. The muse laughs from her dark corner, refusing discourse. My fingertips slide from the keys.

    I am a loser. The world beckons with its promise of charm and social drama. Glittering swirls of life outside tugs at my morbid curiosity. “There’s more than this,” people say to me, but the canvas tethers me to my place.

    I am alone. One by one, those on the outside grow weary of my resistance. They melt with the evening mists, and I sit, lonely, in my chair. My characters peer from the corners, their whispers tinting my mind. “We’ve destinies yet to be written,” they murmur. “We’ve universes to navigate. Who will guide us if you do not?”

    In my fingers, their happily-ever-afters await. The princess winks at the street urchin, and the knight and the genii form a brotherhood. Slowly, and then more quickly, the screen fills with words, pictures, colors, sounds. The story swirls until the characters march to their ends.

    I am an artist, and the mural awaits my brush.


  21. Foy S. Iver
    WC: 250

    Elements: Conflict – man v. man; Theme – forgiveness

    Graveside in Anfield

    Hate is molten lead.

    I know because I drank it every day since I realized you were to blame. I would tip back that cup, my tongue scalded in pleasure-pain, and grind my teeth to gums as it slogged down my throat.

    A full-bodied liquid, it burned through my gullet, filling my chest cavity and coating my lungs in fire. My heart squeezed wearily, exhausted from pushing a quasi-solid through singed arteries.

    Still I drank.

    It helped me remember. Remember why I wanted to live, why I needed to live. Long after the provocations faded into the haze of Once Was, I knew it wouldn’t matter. This was my elixir of life, my oxygen.

    That’s when you left.

    You slipped away in your sleep, a soft death for Mother Monster.

    No judge heard my case. No manacles bound your ineffectual hands. No cell clanged shut on your enabling corpse.

    In a bed, your heart murmured a song out of tune, until the notes were unsustainable, and you gave me up as prey one last time.

    An elemental atherosclerosis set in. Wrath had consumed all of memory’s kindling. The inferno flickered, tremored, extinguished, leaving smelted hate to bubble then to simmer then to harden. My iron lungs were still, my weighted heart dropped into my belly, and my arm could not lift the cup to my lips anymore.

    You were free. I was not.

    Then the tears came.

    You never said you were sorry. So I’ll say it for us both.


  22. 250 words
    Required elements
    Conflict: man vs man Setting: ancient Persia

    “Why are you doing this to me?” Amrav cried as he struggled helplessly against the younger, stronger Fraoraosa.

    Fraoraosa said nothing as he pinned Amrav to the ground. Amrav considered giving up for a moment, but he feared his fate and decided to fight harder. He kicked and struck Fraoraosa, who grunted and cursed as Amrav landed blow after blow. When Fraoraosa grasped Amrav’s shirt and attempted to pick him up, Amrav bit his hand. It bought Amrav a second as Fraoraosa howled in pain and let go for a moment. However, a second was not enough time. As Amrav tried to scurry away, he felt a strong hand grab his ankle and impede his escape. Fraoraosa cursed loudly as he dragged Amrav away from the herd of goats.

    “I’m but a simple goat herder, I don’t deserve this fate, I have done nothing wrong,” Amrav pleaded as he grabbed at large rocks and bushes, hoping to slow Fraoraosa down. It was true, Amrav had nothing of value. He was a simple goat herder, spending his days watching over his flock. Amrav enjoyed a simple life and the idyllic peace of the pasture. He had no gold or riches.

    Amrav gasped in fright when he saw the water.

    “Why are you doing this to me? Amrav cried again. “I’m but a simple goat herder, why do you wish to cast me into the pond?”

    “Because Uncle Amrav,” Fraoraosa replied, “you smell worse than the goats and it’s time you bathed”


  23. Planet HH
    Elements: Character – adventuring (space) sailor, and Theme – justice
    250 words

    “This is the fifth all-dirt planet. Shouldn’t we sail out of this solar system?”

    Captain Mangopants regarded his first mate with a sour expression. (He had just finished eating a bowl of lemons.)

    “The Mangonauts never quit, Herringbone!”

    “It’s Harrington, sir.”

    “Not anymore it isn’t! You’re a Mangonaut now, boy.”

    Harrington was eighty-seven years old. The average lifespan of a human had increased greatly since the invention of E-Z Youth™…but still. He wished he hadn’t asked for a transfer.

    Harrington heard his previous captain’s voice: “Quit your whining you useless sack of crap.” That was worse than “boy.”

    “Head for the last planet, Pilot Pete!” Captain Mangopants roared.

    Perhaps Captain Hardass had been right. “No matter where you go, you’ll always be a failure.” Harrington’s wish had been to find a habitable planet so he could rub Captain Hardass’ nose in it. Now it looked like the only nose being rubbed was his.

    “Captain! The scanner is showing signs of life!” Dr. Scientist said.


    “Captain, why did you name the planet HH?”

    “I’m glad you asked that question, interviewer person. When we got to the surface, I was so elated that I named the whole place after my beloved first mate.”

    “Mr. Herringbone, how does it feel to be associated with the planet that scientists are describing as ‘perfect’?”

    “There’s only one way I can describe the feeling,” Harrington said. He gazed soulfully into the camera and said “SUCK IT, DAD.”

    Somewhere in the universe, Captain Hardass regretted some things.


  24. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 250
    Story Elements: Character (street-rat… or is it?)/Setting (ancient Persia)


    I slip my way through teeming crowd,
    Preparing fingers to be fouled
    With sustenance of stolen food,
    Taken from some vendor dude.

    Magic carpet waits for me,
    While the monkey’s in a tree.
    Genii watches from the wall,
    Waiting for my big haul.

    Hunger shreds our stomachs now,
    Oh, that we could eat a cow.
    Settle for some melon though,
    Nicked with skill by my big toe.

    Genii rolls his eyes, you see;
    He’s got wishes, one, two, three
    That I have yet to really use.
    None of them I want to lose.

    Love the promise that it brings,
    having wishes in the wings.
    If I botch my stealing craft,
    I’ll use a wish and not go daft.

    I slurp my melon segment down,
    Moving gaze over the town,
    When I see huge, gorgeous eyes,
    That grace a maiden in disguise.

    She wears a hood, and as I look,
    She snitches fruit like she’s a crook.
    I grin at Genii, wink and nod,
    Then hide lest people think it’s odd

    To see the four of us atop
    The tent that shades the veggie shop.
    No matter that we weigh too much
    to keep the tent upright and such.

    It’s just a story, now, you see;
    Why not listen well to me?
    To make a long-ish story short,
    I’ll tell the end and let you sort

    The rest out for yourself, ’cause see,
    The princess marries magic me.
    The big genii is the street rat,
    The monkey wears the sultan hat.


  25. Treasured

    Character: Adventuring Sailor
    Theme: Rags to riches

    Word Count: 250

    The gold means nothing without you here. ‘You’ could be anyone: a lover, a parent, a pet. He lost the will to care about the source of his attention and affection. Not all the gold in the world can buy genuine love.

    He sailed into this cave alone and he will sail out quite the same.

    “You will be my friend, now.” He told a piece of gold.

    Rough stone scrapped where the soles of his shoes wore thin. He’d be able to buy new ones soon, and he tried to let that thought excite him forward, excite him enough to leave the cave and its vast treasures.

    Except, he knew he couldn’t take it all. “My new friends, why should I abandon thee?”

    The piles of gold were large and endless, towering over him and nearly touching the upper curve of the cave.

    The man bent over, untying the laces of his leather shoes and placing them in the boat. He then walked over to the piles of gold, let the cool metal press between his toes. It had been so long since something touched him as sweetly, so long since something this beautiful gave him attention.

    He could sail out of this cave with a bag full of treasure and change his life forever.

    Instead, he turned to the gold and with a childlike glee he never experienced as a child, he leapt off the balls of his feet and into the treasure.

    He could leave tomorrow, too.


  26. This Night is All We Have
    (250 words)
    (adventuring sailor/ancient Persia)

    Dimjan no longer needed hope. That had died with Shamilyn. He launched his vessel into the iridescent indigo sea and prayed for a whimsical breeze. The horizon beckoned, shimmering like sultan’s gold.

    The gods heard his prayer as wind billowed his sails, propelling him onward. He stood proudly in the prow. Dimjan prepared to meet his destiny on this voyage, fates last and greatest adventure. But wait, the horizon should have remained just beyond his reach. Instead, Dimjan sailed through the shimmering veil and into the heady overpowering scent of fragrant blossoms.

    Silently his vessel glided through rainbow hues of silken petals to dock at the entrance to a garden. Myriad flowers framed the portal. Emerald green vines overhead promised respite from the heat. Dimjan recognized what could only be the fabled Hanging Gardens of Persia, a mythical haven promising untold delights.

    When an ethereal being in wispy fabric flitted past the gate, he stepped cautiously out of the boat. A giggle beckoned him from within. But it couldn’t be! Dimjan would recognize the sound of his beloved Shamilyn anywhere.

    Was he dead? Did she live? He rushed into the cool embrace of the bower, straight into her arms.

    “It’s you. How?”

    “Your love called to me.”

    “Is this place real? Can I be with you forever?”

    “This night is all we have.”

    Dimjan crushed her lips to his, a salty taste mingling with the remembered sweetness of her. She pulled away.

    “Do not waste time on regrets, my beloved.”


  27. Taking The Horse I Do Not Need
    Conflict (man v self) and theme (rags to riches)

    I do not need another horse.
    Keep telling yourself that.
    Wrinkled nose, pinned ears, swishing tail—teeth bared.
    I do not need another horse. I do not need another horse.

    He’s a fine animal with intelligent spark in his eyes, even when he snarls. WHAM. The cross tie divider shudders at his kick. Lesson girl (not me) jumps back. The horse’s grey head stills, but the whites of his eyes glare at lesson girl.

    I dare you, his eyes say.

    She dares and flops the saddle on his back. He swings his teeth at her, but the cross ties yank him back. He steps back and forth. Lesson girl smacks his belly, and he stomps his foot. Under her breath, she mutters, “Little piece of shit.”

    Horse snorts. You’re on.

    I clench my fists. I do not need another horse.

    They don’t make it out of the barn. Horse kicks out at a giant horse fly on his rump, and lesson girl swats him with her whip. He charges right over top of her and out of her hands.

    “We have to get rid of him,” the head riding coach says. “We can’t have an aggressive horse at shows.”

    Words come out of my mouth, and before they sink in, I have another horse. For free. Later, I took him back to the same show and we won all blue ribbons. With me, “little piece of shit” discovered his talents.

    I do not need another horse.
    But he needed me.


  28. Required elements: rags to riches (well more like rags to warmth and comfort), setting ancient Persia
    250 words

    The Genie

    “Fraoraosa, lift me higher”

    “No, I cannot.”

    “Fraoraosa you must lift me higher.”

    “You are already on my shoulders uncle. If you need to go higher I suggest you grab the next bird that flies by and ask it to carry you into the sky.”

    Amrav grunted with displeasure.

    “Let it go Uncle, it is only a lamp. It is not magical nor contains a genie. If you wish to go from rags to riches, you should get more goats for your herd and bathe more often. I’ve had enough of this; I’m going back.”

    Amrav had seen the lamp as he climbed out of the pond. It was stuck in the branches of a Cyprus tree, just out of their reach. Amrav remembered the old legends of genies and magic lamps. Although he enjoyed the simple life, the nights spent sleeping in the pasture was taking their toll. His body ached in the morning from the cold, hard ground. He had no desire for vast riches, but desired warmth and comfort.

    “Go on then,” Amrav shouted as Fraoraosa walked away. “When I get that lamp, one of my wishes will be that you spend a week as a goat.”

    As Amrav sat and pondered his next move, a stiff wind began to shake the tree.

    Genies always find a way to their next master.


  29. 250 words long
    Justice, street urchin and the image. First attempt – woo!


    The headline flashed up briefly before his retinal implant. SUSPECT APPREHENDED IN E-MOD THEFTS. Inwardly he breathed a sigh of relief, the lower wards would be slightly safer to traverse now, at least in theory. And it made his job easier, catching perps was harder now his implants were slowing.

    The dispossessed. The vagrants. The urchin underclass had nothing in the way of prospects, no way to be genetically legitimate and access the benefits of family and security. Often the unwanted liaisons of their social betters, unwilling to pay for the requisite genetic modifications to make them productive members of society. Some, his wife included, romanticised the notion and felt sorry for them.

    He snorted in disgust.

    People like his wife never saw the aftermath. The bodies. The urchins took only what would sell, and that was the implants, neural circuitry, E-Mods… It was butchery. Skulls cracked open, masses of flesh exposed and stripped of the organic wires and processors. Corpses left where they fell after the neural shock.

    Justice. That’s all it was. Can the talk of ‘protection’, screw the whispers of ‘enfranchising’. They deserved all they got – one less mouth to feed, one less person clawing their way up the shoulders of another. All they had that was useful was their bodies and they would be useful indeed – repurposed for donation.

    Justice indeed. He allowed himself a small smile as he entered the lower wards for his shift. Behind him, a shape shifted in the shadows.


  30. Salaasil (Chains)
    Character (street urchin) / Theme (justice)
    250 words exactly

    His manacles clanged against the stone wall as she cradled his calloused hand to her cheek.

    “Would that a less worthy soul could take your place.”

    “Then perhaps you should step in.”

    “That isn’t fair.”

    “Isn’t it?”

    Her gold bangles jangled as she pulled away. “We each wear our own chains.”

    “Nobility isn’t a birthright, Amira.”

    Her cheeks burned with his words. “At least your suffering will be at an end. I will be tormented by this to the end of my days.” She rested her head to his chest. “That is his punishment for me. A life lived without you.” She held her breath, better to hear his heart.

    Her father served it to her on a silver platter. “I cut it from his chest while it was still beating,” he said. “He died calling your name.”

    Amira held back tears until he left.

    She escaped under the cover of darkness. In a small cave, three hours south, she found the unremarkable oil lamp of her mother’s bedtime stories.

    “Magnificent Djinn,” she said, kneeling before its owner. “I beg your assistance.”

    “What have you to offer?” the creature asked.

    “My jewelry.”


    “A taste of my royal blood.” She exposed her neck, trembling.

    “Tempting…” The djinn’s tongue jutted through its pointy eye teeth. “But not enough.”

    “And,” Amira said, unswaddling a stained bundle of rags. “A sultan’s bitter heart, cut from his chest while it was still beating.”

    The djinn licked its lips and smiled. “Tell me your desires.”


  31. When Sahara Smiles
    Elements: Character and Theme (and implied location)
    250 Words

    When Sahara smiles, I am reminded of a million golden scales reflected upon the water. She was the one who found my secrets and kept them hidden.

    Sahara is my golden jewel and through she knows I would do anything for her— she never asks. She is kind when she does not have to be, and always she is gentle.

    She knows my heart, perhaps better than I know myself, but she keeps my secrets as if they were her own. Perhaps they are, for I was the one who saw her beauty before she ever bloomed.
    When she walks, I hear the echo of silver chimes and when she dances, my suspicious are confirmed. She is a goddess in shadows: the child of sand and sky.

    She is purity and piety in an unclean world.

    Sahara; golden; a child of the desert she knows no name save that which I gave her. I know the world has been unkind to her, but she has never repaid that unkindness with anything but the most gentle of rebuffs.

    She is water and shade in the burning heat. She offers refreshment and protection against the cruelest of hearts. She is an oasis untouched by storms.

    But she has a covetous side as well, and knows every secret whispered to the wind.

    When I die, I know she shall keep my secrets safe, and bury me with them so none shall ever know which bones are mine, and which belong to my crimes.


  32. The Last Gift

    After all her other presents had been given, Avizheh’s grandmother brought her a box. The guests were occupied in conversation, drinking tea and eating all the pastries Avizheh’s mother and aunts had made for the party. Grandmother had been so ill that Avizheh had expected nothing from her. Her presence was gift enough.

    “This is special, my child,” her grandmother whispered. “Do not open it now. Hide it now, in your room. Open it when everyone has gone to sleep.”

    As the only daughter with four brothers, Avizheh’s slept alone.

    “What can it be?” Avizheh teased, lifting the wooden box. It rattled.

    “It is our secret,” said her grandmother. “But I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.”

    The moon peered in her window as Avizheh opened her last gift. Inside the box was a tarnished copper lamp. The bazaars were full of new lamps, but Avizheh knew this one was special since it belonged to her grandmother.

    “I would not want a shiny one,” she told the lamp. “I love you just the way you are.”

    As she caressed the old copper, a stream of purple smoke poured from the lamp.

    It formed a man, tall, and dressed in fine golden silk robes. His handsome face looked sad.

    “I am yours now, mistress,” he told her, bowing.


    “I am your genii. I obey your commands.”

    “How can this be?”

    “Your grandmother has died,” he said, sorrow in his voice. “I can only serve one mistress.”

    Word count: Exactly 250 words
    Settting: Old Persia
    Character: girl unaware of her heritage


  33. The Princess of Aberajoud

    The princess sat in the minaret and sung. Her voice joined the birds in golden cages hung about her room. Below her the city of Aberajoud lay in shadow, the sun not high enough to brighten it’s dusty alleys.
    A head floated above the balcony’s low balustrade. “Princess?”
    She sighed. “Yes, Mahifa?”
    “Would you like to ride the wave of morning, soar in the sky as the sun takes flight?”
    “No. I’d like to walk among the people of Aberajoud and speak with them.”
    Mahifa said, “Magic carpet rides I can do, Princess. The impossible is beyond my grasp.” He soared away, the carpet disappearing into a long low cloud.
    The princess looked at the water clock. Mahifa had been, it must be time for—
    “Princess!” The djinn was a hand tall, purple, and irrepressibly cheerful. “What worldly delight shall I show you today? Three wishes, any three. Choose carefully.”
    “I wish to walk among the people of Aberajoud and speak with them.”
    The djinn’s face fell. “I can do that which lies beyond your wildest dreams, not that which lies beyond belief.” The puff of smoke left by his disappearance smelt of rose water.
    The princess looked out at the city. The sun’s coming brought life to the streets, she could make out their bustle, though the people appeared as ants.
    She took a lamp from her sleeve and rubbed it. Nothing happened, still she whispered, “Genie, for my fourth wish, I wish to be a peasant girl again.”

    Word Count: 250
    Elements: Theme – Rags to Riches; Ancient Persia.


  34. 1001 Nights
    Margaret Locke (margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke)
    250 words
    Conflict (man vs self) and Character: street urchin

    She wanted a magic lamp with a genie. Not the Robin Williams, in-your-face kind of genie; big, loud guys weren’t her type, though she dealt with her fair share. No, she wanted the I Dream of Jeannie genie, but a male version, of course. In an outfit like cartoon Aladdin wore, only he – and his six-pack – would be real.

    Where was her rags-to-riches story? Her Prince Charming? Her Richard Gere?

    Life on the streets was no Hollywood movie, for sure.

    She shoved the mass of bleached-blonde hair out of her eyes and sighed. A glimpse in the mirror told her yesterday’s make-up was today’s clown mask. A clown. That’s what she was. A gross distortion of the little princess she’d once been, back when she had a home. A family.

    She’d thrown it all away like a farmer emptying slops, spreading venom and hatred far and wide, encasing her parents in chunks of anger, denial, rebellion, fear.

    This was no fairy tale. This was Good Girl Gone Bad, the privileged reduced to the prostitute, desperation oozing out of every pore along with cigarette smoke.

    The light from the bulb in the ceiling sputtered and went out.

    She closed her eyes. She should go out, too. Out with a bang, or with a whimper. It wouldn’t matter. Just out.

    She rubbed her belly. It kicked in response. She was out of options. Out of wishes.

    One thousand and one nights of hell.

    She picked up the phone.

    “Hello, mom?”


  35. Unsolicited

    When Laura opened the door and saw the small goat-man smiling she knew they were never going to give up. Never.

    “Good morning, princess. I am Maurice, spokesman of the goat-people. If you could please…”

    “I’m not a princess. Why is this so hard to understand?”

    It first started with the emails. They said she was the lost daughter of King Horatio, beloved king of the goat-people. Poor King Horatio had perished in battle and she was his only heir. The goat-people were awaiting her return to the goat-land so she could take vengeance for the death of her father and free them from the tyranny of the perverse bird-people.

    Laura got hundreds of emails from the goat-people, all asking her to take her rightful place at the throne and vanish the bird-people from their homes. A few days ago the goat-people also got her phone number. The goat-people really, really like to talk on the phone.

    And now, they had her address.

    Laura tried to close the door but Maurice stopped it with his hoof.

    “Please, you must help us, princess. The goat-people need…”

    “My father is not dead and he is also not a goat. I beg you, leave me alone!”

    “The King lives? The King lives! You must take me to him, princess, you must!”

    Laura pushed Maurice and closed the door. The goat-man kept ringing the doorbell and yelling “long live the king”. And then the phone started ringing.

    Fact: goat-people just don’t give up. Never.

    Character: girl unaware of her true heritage
    Theme: justice
    250 words


  36. An Invitation

    Oh best beloved,
    Let me take you where
    The spice is heavy in the evening air,
    Where over gilded sands
    The temples rise of ancient lands,
    Where like blue blinking eyes
    The oasis promise paradise—

    Come let me take a jug of wine
    A loaf of bread, and thou
    Beside me in the scented night
    We needs no mad genie for transportation
    We needs no worn carpet to cause us to fly—
    Just you and I
    And all the stories that the old ones told
    Of wily orphans and scheming grand Viziers,
    Of greedy princes and beautiful maids,
    Who netted Sultan’s in their gleaming braids—

    Come best beloved,
    Let us speak of things
    Hoarded in caves, and gleaming piles of gems
    Of crafty thieves, and magic diadems,
    As many tales as stars peeping through the clouds,
    Veiled stories Scheherazade spoke aloud
    To stay alive, while her bloodthirsty Sultan lay
    And listened, after their love play—
    And did some kind jiin whisper in her ear,
    More stories, so she wouldn’t not disappear
    Bound in a sack and heaved into the sea,
    Like his discarded wives of history?

    Come best beloved,
    Let us not think of them—
    A good tale does not betray its origin—
    For poor Aladdin’s older than the stones
    The Pharaohs used to bury their old bones—
    Before men borrowed from the stars their fire,
    On long cold nights, they spoke of hot desire,
    In air spiced sweet with cardamom and cloves,
    They spoke, in softest whisperings, of love.

    Exactly 250 words


  37. Worth

    I came into being when nature’s colors bled into the finest linen threads, transformed, moved, made, by strong and singing hands. Warp and weft, colors of fruits and gems that never lent their life blood to my making.
    Snipped, shaped, stitched, sold.
    “Let me be something to you, let me be of use,” I whispered across the dusty air whenever a pair of eyes settled upon me.
    Fingers brushed over me, taking in my worth through, weighing, judging.
    Finally, I was sold.
    I settled over the curves of shoulder bones, fell flat against ribs that expanded and contracted to press warm flesh against me. I grew warm and reflected the day’s sunlight back once night began to settle.
    I lived on wall hooks and balanced over chairs. I snagged on unforgiving wood; so determined to be one thing while I was steadfastly another.
    Sometimes I carried the secret information of the day. Smoke from visitor’s cigar lingered, three motes of ash sitting silent on a cuff. Saffron and rose petal notes, lingering deep within that spoke of an long afternoon at the market.
    I grew thin. I was no longer quite myself. I grew soft against the slopes and plains of a long familiar form. I no longer provided quite the heat I used to.

    I was discarded.

    I waited.

    I was retrieved by smaller hands. Fingertips traced my thin threads, still beautiful.
    A sharp body, so very cold, slipped me on. And I gave all the warmth I could.

    250 words
    Character: street urchin
    Theme: very literal rags to riches


  38. @PattyannMc
    WC: 250
    Setting: Ancient Persia
    Theme: Rags to riches

    Fritillaria and Queen of the Tulips

    Menacing bearded Persian dragons guard the desert Gate of Nations into the great city of Pārsa, near the river Pulvar. There stood a palace; Apadana, carved into the mountain. The Persepolitan Stairway led to Palace Gardens and it is there we find Laleh, as gentle as tulip flowers, and her horrid twin sister, Shahnaz, hardened to the color of poppies. They are the keepers of the Garden.

    The shaded gardens known for their exquisite Fritillaria of multi-hues, their flower heads upside down, enticed King Alborz, a nice respite from the grind of politics. Walking the gardens daily, he enjoyed fresh air and scents of red Rose, delicate Maryam, Poppy, Orchids, and Iris. Watercolor seas of flowers bobbled in the parched desert winds while the sisters tended them.

    Alborz passing by always plucked a flower, any but a rose, handing it to Shahnaz. Laleh looked away; hurt. Alborz did not bless her. Shahnaz, the more beautiful, raven hair cascading to the small of her back, framing emerald eyes, believed the King desired her, pressing herself into him for a kiss on the cheek. He’d smile, winking at Laleh, and retreat. At sixteen, neither married, they felt their prospects slim.

    One day, Alborz kneeled before gentle Laleh, presenting her a red rose. Laleh confused, blushed the color of the rose, while Shahnaz looked on jealous, a fuming fool.

    “Would you tend me as you do the Fritillaria, gentle Laleh? Be my Queen, and Queen of the Tulips?”

    Laleh surprised, accepted his Rose.


  39. Among the Missing

    In the kitchen, burqas came off, not folded back from faces, but tossed in a corner. There was no talk of war, because the Taliban said there was no war. They whispered about proscribed things and engaged in seditious activity. The youngest girls sat in a corner of the kitchen learning what the Taliban had forbidden—how to read. When one grandmother, placed near the doorway as a lookout, heard footsteps, she gave a signal. Books went under the pile of burqas. After the grandmother signaled all clear, the lessons started again.
    The evening wore on, and children nodded off. The women talked of those not among them: one dead in childbirth when a male doctor wasn’t allowed in her house, one dead of an infection because the Taliban said it was God’s punishment, one beaten into paralysis when her husband spotted polish on her elegant fingernails.
    They couldn’t speak of whom they’d been before the Taliban. That was too painful. They bore this in silence, shed tears only with each other, and didn’t voice their fear. Fear was a familiar companion even before the Taliban, but it rode their backs now.
    Men called their names from the other side of the curtain. They sorted and donned burqas, kissed each other goodbye. They followed husbands and slipped into the backseats of vehicles, children dozing on their laps, illicit books hidden beneath yards of suffocating cloth. They didn’t know when they’d be together again.
    Which of them would be missing then?

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    250 words
    Conflict: man vs. man
    Theme: justice


  40. @GeoffHolme
    Story Elements: Setting (ancient Persia) and Character (aging street urchin)
    Word Count: For you, pretty lady, special bargain – only 250!

    WIP: Ali Baba – The Panto!

    [ Scene 1: The Old Bazaar ]

    [Enter ALI, struggling firewood seller; people scurry away as he approaches]

    Firewood! Firewood! Here for you…
    Take a bundle… maybe two…

    I’m late…. My wife… I have to meet her!

    My camel’s on a parking meter…

    [ALI is left alone, puts down sack, sighs]

    Hi, folks. My name’s Ali Baba.

    [holds open threadbare cloak]

    Yes, my ragged, stained djellaba
    Should mean that you have got my number:
    A firewood seller in dead lumber!

    [Enter WOMAN-1 and WOMAN-2]

    Come on, ladies, don’t be shy!
    Give my firewood a try!

    Firewood? No, I’ll have to pass.
    I have no need, I cook with gas.

    We don’t use firewood to boil
    Our kettle now that we’ve struck oil.

    [Exit WOMAN-1 and WOMAN-2; enter MAN-3]

    You, sir! Could you use some wood?

    Well… OK… Perhaps I could…

    Twenty dirham, if you please.

    [MAN-3’s jaw drops]

    Firewood doesn’t grow on trees!

    Twenty dirham? There’s no way!
    I earn less than that a day!

    All right then, ten… Oh, don’t say “no”!
    Well, five’s the lowest I can go.

    [MAN-3 shakes head, exits; enter WOMAN-3 and WOMAN-4;
    ALI offers bundle to WOMAN-3…]

    Is my wife to starve today?

    […then to WOMAN-4]

    Is my son to fade away?

    We can’t buy this. We’re both poor.
    Go to your rich brother’s door.

    He could set you on your feet.

    [pointing into wing]

    Here he comes along the street!


  41. A mountain never meets a mountain, but a man meets a man
    250 words
    theme: justice
    character: street urchin

    On a whim he had put up a sign reading ‘café’, wondering if it would compel anyone to wander in from the streets and navigate the narrow stairs, up to his humble abode, perched delicately on the first floor of an abandoned carpet weaver’s shop in the old town centre.

    If someone did he wouldn’t have much to offer them. A dusty flask of cheap bourbon. An off bottle of milk. The rusty water from his kitchen sink. Then again, he himself had never frequented drinking holes for the booze. It was company he sought and acceptance, if only for a few fleeting hours, from random strangers.

    The ragged girl who turned up on his front door chose the bourbon. She wasn’t much of a looker, though her clothes and makeup suggested she was taking a break in between paid affections, but when she spoke an exotic, fragile accent made sure you’d never forget her.

    She claimed to have once worked for the carpet weaver in the shop below, an abusive man with little compassion, who upon his death had sent his shylocks on her trail, forcing her into her current profession. She did not shed a tear as she told her harrowing tale, did not ask for compassion. She almost seemed happy to revisit the cradle of her ordeals.

    By the time he realized it wasn’t company or acceptance she sought, it was already too late.

    The carpet weaver had escaped her revenge.

    Now any random stranger would do.


    • A grim story, so beautifully told, Dieter.
      I started to list stand-out lines, but there are too many to repeat!
      Not so much ‘stand-out lines’, more ‘stand-out story’. Tremendous!

      Liked by 1 person

  42. Title: Legendary
    Conflict: Man vs Self
    Theme: Forgiveness
    Word Count: 250
    Full Blog Post: https://marshalhopalop.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/flash-friday-legendary/

    They just left him there, dead in the slums of Istanbul— the last time I was here it might still have been Constantinople. I had left to find my own fortune and cut my way through the world on the crests of ocean waves. Silks from China and wine from Venice made up a bed of gold for me to rest easy upon.
    But now the prodigal son has returned. Where was the good fortune of my family? Their manors and castles? Perhaps those were only dirty hovels twisted by a child’s memories. Everything worth anything had been stolen from our house. Not even our Quran was left.
    I bent down to touch my father’s face. It was dry and thin, closer to parchment than skin. His body is light as I lift it onto my shoulders. Still, my knees buckle. At the very least, I can give him a proper burial outside these glaring walls where the sun and wind can meet.
    There were stares as I walked from slum to market to residential streets. Some must have believed I was a benevolent undertaker— an angel amongst men. Nothing so legendary, unfortunately. Just a son who had forsaken father and Father to have a chance to master the world.
    Now, as I pass through the colossal city gates, I feel ever smaller.
    I will never leave you again, father. Even if we are joined together in the soil should I collapse and my lonely soul is judged in heaven.


  43. 250 Words

    On Borrowed Time

    Everyone who can manage to sit is upright and at the end of their beds; waiting for the sisters to come around with their trolley of donated gifts. The rickety old thing’s slowly squeaking its way up the corridor.

    ‘They’re coming, they’re coming!’ The boy in the bed by the door cries softly in excitement. His name’s Warren — stage three Leukaemia, he’s not got long left, but he’s got longer than me.

    I have weeks where he has months. I’m stage four; my body started shutting down months ago.

    ‘They’re coming, Sammy,’ he says in my direction, his pale face so full of excitement it’s set a flush in his cheeks.

    I don’t have the energy to talk, either that or I just don’t see the point anymore, so I give him as genuine a smile as I can muster and watch the door.

    ‘Good afternoon children,’ the sister says, ‘how are we all today?’

    I don’t think she expects us to answer, no one in this room will be here come Christmas.

    She does her rounds; each child takes something from her big cardboard box. She gets to me last.

    ‘For you dear,’ she says placing some sort of battered old teapot on my bedside cabinet.

    Nice. Real uplifting gift that.

    Later Warren’s showing me his teddy, and I lift my old kitchen accessory that wouldn’t look out of place on ‘Antiques Roadshow.’ An inscription catches my eye and I rub at the casing to get a better look.


  44. “A Ghost”
    by Michael Seese
    Story Elements: Conflict, character
    250 (EXACTLY) words

    I am invisible. A ghost.

    A spectre. A wraith that haunts these streets. Unable to find a way to my home, any home, I bobble in the waves of humanity that wash over me every day. Lacking a body, I drift to wherever they push me. To the sides. To the fringes. Out of their way.

    I am invisible. A ghost.

    How else to explain the people who look right through me as I press my nose against the glass beside their laden table? Before them sits more food than I have known in a year. Soon, they will pay their bill and walk away, abandoning a feast. Later, I will wage war against the feral cats, as we all fight to claim the prize from the trash can behind the restaurant.

    “I am invisible. A ghost.”

    I say this to the others. The boys like me. Boys who, under other circumstances, I might call friends. But they’re not friends. They are rivals, as we compete for the coins. The cast-off clothing. The desperate sips of water, born from the overnight dew that condenses on the awnings of the shops lining the street and drips down to our eager mouths, even as the spiteful sun takes his share.

    “I am invisible. A ghost.”

    I shout from the rooftop as I prepare to prove to them – to the merchants, to the tourists, to the others – once and for all that I am a ghost.

    For everyone knows that ghosts can fly.


  45. When in Persia, best to Leave all that Glitters alone
    250 words

    Character: Adventuring Sailor
    Setting: Ancient Persia

    How does one clip the wild-spirit wings of arrogant youth into accepting the responsibilities of adulthood? Far easier to master the wind and pin it to Earth, or chain a dragon to roast your meat.

    The sea, and promises given by men in crisp Navy uniforms, were the options presented me to force this rite of passage. Endless travel upon salty waves appealed to my restless Gypsy blood far more than rotting in some forgotten pit.

    Society demanded I be tamed. I allowed it…but only just.

    Persia’s Grand Bazaar fills the horizon between our billowing sails – the port I’ve waited to visit since my first night aboard. The stories speak of a great conglomeration of humanity and artistry, all mixed in a great, chaotic tangle. Here, I’m convinced, a Gypsy-turned-Sailor can perform small acts of mischief and remain completely unobserved.

    She attracted my wandering eye from across the quay, by reflecting a riot of blended colors from the dusty Persian sun. She had a pleasingly-ample belly which curved almost lazily up toward her graceful neck, flaring again to terminate in substantial lips. A rounded-bottom, twisty tapered stopper closed this antique bottle against any intrusions to its contents.

    This beautiful princess in glass was woefully unattended.

    Oh, Persia – I applaud the inventive imagination of your ancient tricksters. A single drop of my blood, extracted from the stopper’s very sharp tip as I liberated her from her former owner, was enough to ensnare me for eternity.

    As the Djinn in the bottle.


  46. The Forth Step
    Character: street urchin
    Theme: forgiveness
    Word Count: 107

    When he saw her
    he took an orgasmic breath.
    A green scarf fluttered
    on the top step
    there the garden fountains
    sputtered life and laughter.
    I fell to my knees
    gathering spilled coins.
    He followed the flutter,
    grazing shoulders
    and the slavish sun
    then stopped on the forth step.
    She cries out in joy,
    but not his.
    Her tanned arms like Anahita
    embraces a youthful figure.
    Adrift he drops the race
    then studies the step
    eroded from other battles.
    My hands are full of coins.
    His are empty vessels.
    And then there are days
    when he forgets and eases
    his soured  thoughts
    on my boundless lap.


  47. @stellakateT
    250 words
    Conflict and Character

    Friends for Life

    If he thinks I’m going down that sand dune again he’s got another thing coming. Send down those horses they are bird brained, they’ll do anything even end up in a tin of dog meat. That Rashid thinks he’s the boss but stays far way in case I spit on him. My gobs of phlegm make the strongest stomachs heave. I can also give a nasty bite, fantastic bacteria live between my teeth; easily give a man, woman or child sepsis. It’s a good job I’m an herbivore else I’d be eating Rashid for breakfast, lunch and tea, he’s a big man! Haven’t eaten for a few weeks but I had a good fill of water the other day. He thinks he’s the master but I am the one that makes him rich. Once he was just a simple boy till he won me in a card game and now I transport him and his trinkets across the sands of Persia. He’s a trickster, a thief and more stupid than most humans.

    Huddled around the campfire, the cold north wind blows, Rashid tells tales of his brother Ahmed that travelled the Seas of Adventure looking for riches beyond reason. He harpooned white whales, captured slaves, married a hundred virgins and fought monsters that roamed the oceans. According to Rashid he lives with his wives and children on an island called Paradise and one day we will go visit. Pigs might fly before this camel walks the gangplank of a dhow.


  48. Words: 250

    Chosen: conflict and character

    The River Lord’s Jewel
    The princess stared at the dark waters of the pool. Beside her stood an older woman with tears in her eyes.
    “Who am I?” she asked the woman.
    “You are my daughter,” she said.
    “Where are we?”
    “This is the doorway to your new home,” her mother said. “At the bottom of the pool is the house of a woman who will care for you until you come of age. After a year I will come and find you and you will once again have all your memories.”
    The princess looked at herself in the still waters. An unfamiliar face stared back at her and large snowflakes started falling like white feathers from the clear sky.
    “Go now, it is time.”
    She dipped her hand into the pool and two elderly hands pulled her into the water. The feather-snow stopped.
    The queen threw the bright jewel that only yesterday adorned the River Lord’s brow into the fountain as well. Her daughter did not know that she had sealed her fate by taking it from where he had left it on the river bank.

    The queen took one last look at the fountain. She had a year in which to find a way for her daughter not to marry the River Lord. A year during which her daughter would not know the fear of fate. She would not let her daughter share the same fate as her mother. She fingered the small knife at her side. She would do anything.


  49. Words: 250

    Chosen: conflict and theme

    The Last Wish
    The castle walls shook as another boulder shattered part of a wall. The air was thick with the sounds of battle.
    “What is your last wish?” the djinni asked the man.
    “I wish that all would go back to the way it was,” he said. His face and hands were that of a man who had worked in the sun his entire life, but his clothes were of the finest silks. Gold rings covered his fingers and his crown reflected the light of the torches.
    “You asked me to make all the fishermen in your village rich lords, and I did that. Then you asked me to build each of you a palace in which to live.”
    “I did not realise that everyone would want even more wealth and lands. I need things to return to the way it was. I need the bloodshed to stop.”
    “To do that is to rewrite time. It will mean that you will not have lived through the repercussions of your choices. That you will not remember any of this. That you will once again find the lamp in which I am trapped. What choices will you make this time, fisherman? How many times will you ask this of me?”
    “How many times have I been here?” he asked.
    “This is the hundredth time you have asked this of me. Choose your final wish wisely.”
    He fell silent, and then said: “If this was always to be my fate, then I wish to die.”


  50. @colin_d_smith
    Word Count: 250 (of course!)
    Character: girl unaware of her true heritage
    Theme: justice
    Title: “The Sins of the Father”

    Lisa placed her mug of steaming coffee on her desk and opened her laptop. The company books needed her attention, so while she waited for her computer to boot, she sipped her coffee and turned on the desk lamp. The filament in the bulb glowed then immediately died.

    “Crap,” said Lisa. Two minutes later she returned with a replacement bulb. She screwed it in, tossed the old one in her trash can, and turned the switch. Instead of a warm yellow light, there was blaze of harsh green from the lamp. Lisa shielded her eyes.

    “Lisa!” The voice was deep and resonant. She peered over her hand to see a pair of eyes staring back at her from the lampshade.


    “You have three wishes. Use them well!”

    With shaking hand, Lisa grabbed her mug and gulped a mouthful of coffee. The eyes were still there, boring into her soul. Her mind raced. She had dreamed of a moment like this since she was a child.

    “I wish… I wish I knew what I ought to wish for!”

    Then the words came unbidden: “I wish you were free!” She shot her hand to her mouth. “No—that can’t be right! I didn’t…” But it was too late. The lamp shattered, and a pillar of green smoke wound out of the remains and knocked her to the floor.

    A minute later she came to, smiling.

    “Sorry, Lisa,” she said. “Your father should never have locked me in there. Justice is served.”


  51. The Dance
    250 words
    Forgiveness / man versus man/self

    Sumptuous silks adorn the room. Music’s invitation brings them to its centre. The gentle sway of boy and girl’s beginners’ steps is soft, tentative. Faltering, they discover shape, and rhythm grows. Closer now, with strengthened confidence, they perfect their hold, grip tightened; they find themselves in deep embrace, pick up pace. With surer feet they leave the floor to pirouette over the minarets. They bejewel the skyline, spinning out vivid rainbow colours.

    They lace their feet to beats of eight, but intricacy and complication ups the tempo. They weave and whirl a hurricane, she’s first to tire, but he refuses to slow. The sharp villain has impeccable timing, cutting in when he knows she’s weak. His music is heady and sweet to disguise the strangled notes beneath.

    The first bar of this new pairing is exotic and daring. He sweeps her up and bears the weight until cheek to cheek, and with false impression, he stirs her passion. As the movement progresses his tastes are unpleasant. The dips and drops are uncontrolled. Out of step, he finds it all too easy to let her go.

    Resilient, she performs her solo. Her lines fluid as tears, she beats her soles against the floor until they bleed for she cannot forgive herself the loss of her true love.
    But he’s in the wings and stronger now. And a contemplative mood ensues; an unravelling of their frenzied dance. A decomposition. While wounds heal and balance is struck, understanding will be their soothing symphony.


  52. Tales from the Wasteland

    Zen’s backpack chafed his shoulders as he clambered across the detritus of the towers. A shattered monitor, wires sprouting like entrails, lay at the summit of one mound. Zen checked it over, but the part he sought was gone.

    Across from the summit the towers sparkled in the gathering twilight, the wall beneath them, a serpent coiled ready to strike at those outside its caress. A shrill whistle caused Zen to leap cat-like down into a valley of fridges and ovens, the drone of a dump-lorry coming closer.

    Others were waiting, young and old, skin peeling, hair lank. The lorry disgorged its contents and the vultures descended, ripping into the discarded offerings of the towers.

    A girl, maybe eight years old, drove a sharp elbow into Zen’s stomach as they grappled for the same prize. The tattoo under her eye, her owner’s claim, stalling Zen’s desire for retribution. She scurried away, the monitor and trailing wires under her arm, back towards the haphazard settlement that lurked on the edge of the dump.

    Another television within the maelstrom, Zen’s fists proving enough to deter any other claims. Ripping into the back panel there lay his prize, a seemingly insignificant circuit board.

    Zen retreated, pulling the makeshift laptop from his backpack, adding the final piece of the puzzle.

    Hitting start, watching the device flicker into life.

    The virus he had created greeting him:

    ##**@[RUN GENIE?]@**##

    Zen hit [ENTER], looking across at the glittering towers, the centre of the universe.

    Enveloped into darkness.


    250 words

    Conflict/Street Urchin


  53. Three Hours to Laramie
    conflict: man vs. man
    character/theme: woman telling stories to save her life (Scheherazade)*
    *I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to use any character/theme from Arabian Nights or only those listed. I understand if this has to be DQd

    Sarah groans. Flat tire. Dusky desert stretches in every direction. Rattlesnakes might shiver behind any roadside rock.

    She goes to change the damned thing. The bolts are so tight she has to jump on the crank.
    A pick-up truck pulls behind her.

    “Need help?” A cowboy-type leans out, leering.

    “No, thanks.” Sweat trickles down her spine. Please, just drive on.

    “How ‘bout a ride?” He slams his door, grinning.

    “No, thanks.” She turns away. Take the hint, buddy.

    Cold gunmetal burns her nape. “Get in the truck, ma’am.”

    Quivering, she climbs into his passenger seat. He’s still grinning like a madman as he sets the gun on his lap, angled her way.

    “Three hours to Laramie,” he says. “Tell me a story to pass the time.”

    A story, a story, dear god. “O—okay. There—was—an adventuring sailor—who set out to get rich.” The tales of Sinbad get them through the first two hours.

    He caresses the gun. “Another.”

    Her throat is rough. “Once a boy found a magic lamp…and…um—” She can’t squeeze out another word.

    “Still got an hour to Laramie.”

    She manages, “There once was a girl who had a flat and a—a nice man—helped her.”

    “Then what happened?”

    “He dropped her in Laramie and she called a tow truck.”

    “That’s a dumb ending. Needs action or a twist.”

    Fast as a rattlesnake, Sarah whips the gun from his lap and points it at his head. “Oh, there’ll be a twist, don’t worry.”


  54. The Magic Lamp

    “I’ll take the lamp,” the lady examined the antique with a magnifying glass. “It’s not a Driscoll,” she tried to lower the tagged price. My head throbbed in the sunny yard. Migraine.

    The Favrile glass shimmered in the sun. For a moment, I thought I saw Mom’s face smile at me. It was her treasured lamp. Never is last fifty years, did she move it from her nightstand. She never let anyone else clean or polish it. For all we knew, it could have been made of a million diamonds. She kept it sparkling clean. What with her constant migraines, she certainly had enough time to spend in her darkened bedroom.

    For once in my life, I stuck to my guns and refused to lower the price and kept the lamp. Another thing, I could never do before. I was always just as wishy-washy as Mom. Another legacy of my dearly departed mother.

    The later afternoon sun cast long shadows, and I picked up my scattered thoughts along with the leftover sale items. Cleaning always inspires my imagination to write, so I picked up a rag and started to clean the lamp. I wished for the djinn and for my migraine to vanish, forever.

    The rag got snagged in the latch that I had not noticed previously, and the base split open. The dogeared pages bound in a green ribbon poked through the gap.

    The manuscript Mom left behind blew the editor’s and publisher’s minds. Not to mention the readers’.

    Conflict and character
    250 uncertain words


  55. Cliffhanger

    The tiny creatures were frozen in time, poised on the verge of conflict. The Roc loomed over the Cyclops, beaks wide open. Her opponent held a spear, thrusting it upwards.

    Kelsey nodded, satisfied. She pressed the shutter and watched the battle move forwards by a single frame onscreen, the clay and wire building in a series of snapshots towards the semblance of life.

    She hadn’t decided the outcome yet. She could award victory to either, kill them both or just walk away and leave them in an eternal deadlock; The Seventh Voyage of Schroedinger.

    She smiled at the thought and leant towards the table, making the tiniest of adjustments to each figure.

    Her phone trilled and her eyes flicked guiltily towards the desk.

    “Hey dad.”

    “Hey kiddo. You sound weird. You okay?”

    “Yeah, just got you on speaker. Still working on the fight scene.”

    “How’s it coming?”

    “Well, I’m no Harryhausen, but it’s looking good.”

    “That’s great. Your Mom loved all those movies.”

    “I know dad…”

    “So… Any news?”


    He swore softly, away from the handset, but she heard him anyway.

    “It’s okay. No news is good news, right?”

    “I guess. You’ll call the doctor if you don’t hear, right?”

    She looked at the letter on the desk. Behind it, the alarm clock winked 11pm; practically another day gone without opening it.


    “And you’ll call the instant you get the results, yeah?”


    “That’s my girl. Speak to you tomorrow?”

    “Sure. G’night dad. Love you.”

    “You too princess.”

    250 words
    Conflict / A girl (currently) unaware of her true heritage


  56. A Flight of Feathers

    “Maryushka,” the dark man says, bowing his head to fit beneath the framework at the entrance. “Come. Your beauty makes you Queen.” He gestures towards the threads stitched throughout fabric on the table at the centre of the room.

    “My wares you may buy, Kashchej,” the girl says, meeting his pitch eyes. “Myself you may not. Magic or no.” She shakes her head. “I do not leave the dervnya. This all know.”

    “Your words are wounds,” the man replies, brows knitting. “Though death hides far as yet. Still, we travel together. Today.” He holds out a bony hand.

    Maryushka remains unmoving. “I will not leave,” she repeats, holding the older man’s gaze.

    “Will you not?” Kashchej asks, with a slight smile. “Is it so? Fly, then, from me, if you may.” So saying, the man folds his fingers into a fist and flicks them out and up, gesturing quickly. “Fly, little one!” he urges.

    Bright glowing eyes glare back, baleful, at the expressionless man before them. A crested head and tail feathers emitting intermittent coloured lights wave in place of the slight female form standing there moments before. “See, now, how I have my way?” he asks, mouth quirking. The bird squawks – strident. “Come, now,” Kashchej says.

    Splaying her large wings, the bird takes flight through the open door into the light, feathers strewn across the floor. Kashchej clasps a single plume between his fingertips; the sky outside aflame. Feathers fall, continuous above, returning to kiss the village paths.

    Theme – Justice

    250 words


  57. Birthright

    250 words
    by Alicia VanNoy Call
    Character (girl)/Setting

    A cloaked man in a mask —
    I didn’t see him the moment before,
    black leather forming a bird’s head,
    eye holes just flashing coins of jet glass —
    stops me in the shadowed alley.

    One gloved hand on my arm,
    and he says, voice muffled,
    “You’re one of us.”

    It is an inscrutable moment of fear.
    This figure, like a god on a doorstep,
    come to claim his child’s birthright.

    “I’m not,” I say.

    How could I be?

    Pulling away, I stumble over a loose paving stone and I run from the alley toward home,
    where fevered Madar waits for her medicine.

    I find her pale and trembling on her pallet.
    I brew the pungent tea and give it to her one sip at a time.
    The illness saps her strength and I fear she will not see another sunrise.

    “Narseh.” Her voice is barely a whisper. “I must tell you.”
    “Shhh.” I sponge her forehead.
    Her lips press together, as if to stop the words. And then:
    “Your father was a djinn.”

    I almost drop the cup.
    It shakes in my hands.

    “How can it be? That dark magic.”

    She closes her eyes.

    “A djinn stopped me in the alley today. I ran from him.”

    “When I am gone,” she says. “They will be your people.”

    “Madar,” I say. “I don’t want other people.” I trace the heated line of her jaw.

    Then: “You won’t die,” I say.

    “Oh no?” she smiles weakly.

    “No,” I say. “Madar,

    make a wish.”


  58. Azita’s Stories
    conflict: woman against society (man vs. society)
    character/theme: story-telling woman (Scheherazade)

    Every morning another story. Azita drops words on the page, hoping they can knit the two halves of a split world together. These stories are her offerings; she gives them instead of blood. So many women must pull veils over true faces, praying that no one notices they exist. Telling their own stories endangers their lives.

    Azita has the words, and so she must use them.

    She writes of Mehrhan, a Kabul girl who dresses as a boy to go to school, to work, to live in a city that wishes she’d never been born at all.

    She writes of Saluwa, raped on her way to school at age ten because girls must not be educated; and Fatima, who fell in love, unmarried, and so received lashes instead of kisses.

    She writes of Zahra, an abused wife treated as a criminal and locked inside a women’s prison. If she goes home her family will try to kill her for her failed marriage.

    She writes of child bride, Amina, aged thirteen and abandoned after a fistula ripped her body during childbirth.

    Her readers prefer hopeful stories, so she writes next about Malika, who has won a scholarship to study abroad.

    Azita goes to Kabul’s women’s-only Internet café and logs on Twitter, only to find American girls claiming #feminismisawful and privileged western men complaining about the terrible #everydaysexism they face from “femi-nazis”.

    Azita returns to her broken world, seeking another story to offer a relentless god.

    There is still work to do.


  59. …and, as if the angry diatribe wasn’t enough, I forgot to close my tag around the title. Could you fix please, otherwise I look even crazier than I am…thanks!


  60. Emily Clayton
    250 words

    Dancing on a Carpet of Water

    They say I took my first steps at 9 months but my first swim right from the womb.

    Screams echoed in the darkness, the mid-winter air frosty despite numerous wool carpets lining walls. The midwife fanned my mother’s face with the bodbezan fan, while she drew her own cloak further around a hunched frame.

    Blood gushed from between my mother’s legs. Splashed brocade cushions. They say they watched the rivers of blood turn to water before their eyes. Such magic could only be caused by the djinn.

    My mother wailed. Ill omens. She named me Uparmiya, paying homage to my djinn-touched state, and she knew I was destined, like my father before me, to head out to sea.

    I soon joined my cousin Youtab on her adventures around the Farakhkard waters. Girl sailors run in the family.

    A criminal at one port screamed through his torture. The djinn kissed my mind, sending me into the shifting Djinnestan lands. My watery nature became ethereal, all-encompassing.

    I lapped against his protruding feet, tried to comfort him from the sun. I felt his pain, strapped to those hollowed logs, covered with honey and burrowing insects, and drowning in his own feces. I washed his face with my tears, offering brief respite from his impending scaphism death. What had he done? He stole a pomegranate to feed his children.

    I slammed back into my body and renewed my senses with a splash of the sea. I am the water, and the water is me.


  61. The reunion.

    @geofflepard 250 words. Conflict. Theme. Rags to riches

    I return every year. Different hotels of course. They say I put off the tourists. A spectre. They pity me – not my loss, my need to come back.
    She’s there, just as Pablo said. She hasn’t looked at me yet. This won’t work.
    I knew she’d be here one day. My love would draw her back.
    Maybe Pablo’s right. I need to talk to her. ‘Excuse me?’
    ‘Are you cold?’
    ‘No, it’s just…. You look familiar.’ I’m right; it is her.
    ‘That’s what I was thinking. Have we met?’ She looks ill. I hope she’s not going to be sick.
    ‘I think… Maybe. What’s you’re name?’ They’d change it. Wouldn’t they?
    ‘Marion. I…’ People are looking. Please, not the police. ‘Here, sit. Water?’
    ‘I’m sorry. A shock.’ She has her eyes. Marion’s eyes. ‘Where are you from?’
    Pablo said she’d ask. ‘Barcelona…’
    ‘I’m not from there. My parents…’ She’s having a heart attack. ‘I’m adopted.’
    It is her. She’s come back to me. Jack said I was mad. They all did but… ‘Do you know anything about them?’
    She believes I’m her. All grown. ‘Not really. They never spoke… My parents said there was shame.’
    I’ve found her. I knew it. I…
    ‘Are you her? My mother?’
    Oh thank you God. ‘Yes. I think so. No, I am. Her. You came back.’
    God she smells. Poor thing. ‘There.’ Pablo’s coming over. We’ll soon be on that plane.
    She smells like she always did. I’ll soon have her home.


  62. The Tale of the Serpentine Shadows
    250 words
    Theme (Justice); Setting

    There had to be some mistake. The Sultan squinted at the girl. A slender, wavering creature who, despite the warmth of lamplight, wore cold shadows. He never would have included her among the seasonal influx of virgins.

    “What is your name?”

    “Aziya,” she whispered.

    An ugly name. Appropriate.

    When she lifted heavy eyelids, so unearthly was her amber gaze that his fingers nearly curled into a warding sign. His apprehension angered him.

    “You do not please my sight,” he announced. Titters from the eunuchs beyond the curtains emboldened him. “Perhaps you have some other use. What can you do?”

    “Let me tell you a story.”

    “Your voice pleases me even less,” he groused. More chortlers from the drapery.

    She began to sway. “Mine is a tale told in dance.”

    He rose to stop her, but her undulations silenced him. Spindly limbs, jutting hips flowed like a fountain. Her shadows unfurled across the moon-cooled tiles. They bespoke an infant found in a pit of vipers by a childless goat-herder. They bespoke the wife’s decade-long dismay and her secret sale of the girl to the Sultan’s men, culminating in the woman’s mysterious demise returning from the bazaar.

    The shadows twisted into a warning: Vex not the Serpent of the sands.

    “Intimidation with shadows?” the Sultan asked, impatient with the way his pulse fretted at his neck.

    “May I go?”

    The Sultan snorted. “My men didn’t pay for a dancer.”

    As he drew her toward the cushions, a sudden sirocco hissed through the curtains.


  63. Best Left Unknown
    Character and theme

    The old man sat alone, watching the images on the screen. Images of Eleanore, his greatest joy and his greatest sorrow all rolled into one.

    He had given her everything she could ever want, except for the one secret he swore she’d never know: he was not her father.

    Her real father was neither kind nor evil – he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    The mines were not as safe back then, the mine owners, not as scrupulous. He could admit it now, at least to himself… back then all that mattered was the bottom line, and Eleanore’s father had paid the price.

    Eleanore’s father, and Eleanore herself.

    She had been so young and all alone in the world. He told himself that caring for her was the Christian thing to do, but in the end, she was the one who saved him.

    She taught him more about the world, about himself than he ever taught her.

    The old man tried not to think about the time he had stolen from her father, telling himself that he had given the girl more than her father ever could, but he knew it for the lie for what it was.

    It weighed on him, and he took solace in the things he could do, but he knew he was no saint. He may have taken her in and made her his, but he had consigned so many other fathers to a similar fate and left their children behind.


  64. Mom’s Final Gift
    By Amberlee Dawn @talithaarise
    Story Elements: Conflict, girl unaware of her true heritage
    250 words

    Sometimes you open the door, no matter the consequences.

    She’d been running from him all morning. His eyes were like stars and broken pottery, but he was slow.

    For several days, she’d begged him not to leave. Militia roamed the streets and sneaking creatures scratched on locked windows.

    But they were almost out of cans because mom and dad never returned that day. He was just going to get them food. He was small and could outrun them. He’d snuck out at sunrise because most of them slept during the day.

    Her feet were throbbing by the time she heard him banging on the door. He had food in his hands and scratches on one leg because he’d fallen while running home. She’d let him in because she was afraid of losing him, too.

    Today, he’d woken up broken and seeking. Precious eggs painted the floor as she sprinted away.

    Racing between rooms, she remembered. Mom’s closet. When the trouble started, mom had given her the key. Mom said the contents belonged to her now, but not to open it unless she was out of options.

    Frightened by the warning, she tried to break through his fog, but reasoning moved him faster. Finally desperate, she ran at the closet with the key, flung the door open and found…

    A lamp? How could…

    The bedroom door slammed and she jumped, screaming, on the lamp. The world burst alive with colored vibrancy and swirling music.

    And everything she’d ever known was wrong.


  65. Esmeralda
    by Jamie Hershberger @JamieRHersh
    Elements: Girl unaware of heritage, Justice
    250 words

    “I’m off to feed Nonnina,” I said, leaving my brother and the stranger to talk over a bottle of wine.
    When I fed Nonnina, I’d often regale her with tales she’d told when she’d still been able to speak. This day, I chose her favorite, the story of Esmeralda, a raven-haired beauty who had poisoned a King.
    Nonnina’s eyes sparkled with delight when I finished it properly: “and she disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.”
    Leaving Nonnina’s room, I turned to lock eyes with the stranger, now alone at the table.
    “Your brother went after more wine,” he said, “how did your grandmother enjoy her porridge?”
    I looked at him for a long moment.
    “Forgive my manners, sir,” I replied, “but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction.”
    The stranger rose from the table as he spoke.
    “I am Elrond IV, rightful heir to the throne of Callan, taken from my family years ago by a raven-haired maiden, whose location, until this very night, had been unknown.”
    I turned and flung the door open, but it was too late for my Nonnina.
    I turned back to the stranger. “What of me, then? Of my brother?”
    Elrond crossed the room, and, in one quick motion, sliced away a lock of my long, black hair.
    “I am avenged,” he said, almost tenderly, his falling hand caressing my cheek.
    “I wonder if your Grandmother was as beautiful as you are on the day she killed my Grandfather.”


  66. A Time To Embrace
    250 words, @pmcolt

    Our prophets foretold that my people would find a homeland, in the fullness of time. But now we are scattered to the beginnings and ends of the Earth, and my ragtag band of refugees constantly asks when we’ll find this promised land.

    Wind whips my hair as I stand atop a hill overlooking a grassy plain. The threescore of us that haven’t been killed by the hunters, or lost to the diaspora, scrounge for supplies. Our last temporal leap dropped us into a land once known as Persia: a land rich in pre-digital history and mythology. Epic battles between armies of good and evil.

    My engineer approaches from the timeship. “I’ve found the problem.” Yet he appears puzzled. “An anachronism lodged in the chronoton inductors.”

    Anachronism. A bit of matter sucked into our path as we bridged countless centuries of history. Typically unrecognizable fragments or debris. This one, though, was an apple. Taking the fruit, I turn it over in my hand, examining its golden skin, single green leaf, and neatly snipped stem.

    “Never have I seen such a pristine anachronism,” he says. “What could it mean?” I study the anachronism: a fruit out of place in this treeless grassland. Just like me. Just like all of us.

    “In this time, but not of it,” I whisper. “I think it’s a sign.” My titanium survival blade cuts through the apple. I offer a slice to the engineer. Then, with loving care, I gather some soil, and gently plant the seeds.


  67. Genie-Us

    “Order, order. Ladies and Genie-tlemen, quiet please. Let’s officially begin our inaugural union meeting.”

    The babbling in the room died down to a murmur. The speaker floated a little higher at the front of the room so he could be heard, “The first order of business is working conditions. Would anyone care to share?”

    A younger Genie spoke up, “I’m finding my office is a bit cramped. Who’s idea was the lamp anyway? Can’t we just live in something bigger, like a nice vase?”

    There were murmurs of agreement from around the room. The chairman made a note.

    One of the larger green Genies at the back spoke up, “You think you’ve got it bad? My lamp is sparkling clean. Darn thing won’t hold the dirt at all. No matter how much I cake it on, the stuff just falls right off. No-one ever tries to rub it. Last week a woman did stop to dust it, but that’s the best I could manage.”

    “That’s nothing. I’m still stuck with the joker that asked for infinite wishes, before we updated the contract. It’s been two hundred years now. I think he’s running out of ideas. This morning he wished for an omelette! Imagine me, with my infinite power, making him breakfast. It’s embarrassing!”

    “If I have one more person ask for world peace, I’m going to throttle them. Does anyone care how hard that is?”

    The chairman shook his head. It was going to be a long day.

    250 words
    Elements: Ancient Persia, Justice


  68. Swallowing Culpability
    by Alissa Leonard @lissajean7
    Elements: Setting, Character (street urchin)
    250 words

    It’s all her fault, I thought as my stomach gnawed at itself. I crouched in the shadows of the bazaar, eyeing the vendors and hoping for a distraction.

    The colorful awnings rippled in the breeze, demanding attention and receiving none but mine. The reds and greens especially reminded me of her, mesmerizing a crowd with her silk dances…

    Then she left me alone.

    Families meandered without a glance my direction. They saw me, surely; they just didn’t see. I’d become invisible.

    She could captivate with the flutter of her scarves, but those had been bloodied by her coughing and unsalvageable. My stomach pinched again. It was all her fault.


    It was all my fault.

    She’d gone out that night because I’d wanted—

    The snap of a carpet being unrolled made me jump, and the sounds and smells of the bazaar overwhelmed me for an eternity before I could force my distance again, ignoring my senses. Seeing was hard enough; smelling the melons, pistachios, and spices was torture, and hearing them haggle about unimaginable riches twisted the knife in my stomach.

    Hunger overcame my caution; my fingers crept toward the spiced nuts—

    A calloused hand grabbed my arm. “You know what happens to thieves, don’t you?”

    “I didn’t touch anything! It’s not my fault!” I screamed, tears already blurring my eyes.

    His voice gentled. “I know, little one.” He handed me some dates and pistachios. “Fault is irrelevant. Choice determines destiny. I could use a hard worker, if you’re willing.”


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