Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 34

WELCOME, tsars and tsarinas, princes and princesses, counts, barons, and wretched serfs, to Flash! Friday! Many of us are still glowing from last week’s win by crowd favorite Brian Creek (be sure to read his #SixtySeconds interview if you haven’t). This week it was also a great deal of fun spending a #Spotlight feature with Maggie Duncan as we celebrated the launch of her newest book, The Better Spy. Speaking of which: >>CONGRATULATIONS to Margaret Locke!!!!!<< for winning Maggie’s giveaway of The Better Spy and My Noble Enemy! Everyone else, be sure to check out Maggie’s author page at Amazon to get your own surreptitious hands on these books.

This next Tuesday, join us at #Spotlight for another exciting book launch, this time celebrating recent Flash! Friday champ Sydney Scrogham‘s release of Chase. And yes, don’t you dare miss it: Sydney will be giving away a free copy! 

WALL OF FLAME!!! Today’s the final chance to write a story toward your July Ring of Fire badge. Note that if you’ve already emailed in the dates of your three July submissions, you’re fine; I’m finally updating the Wall of Flame this weekend and will tweet the badges as loudly as possible. No idea what I’m talking about? Read all about the Wall of Flame and the knock-your-socks off Ring of Fire badge holders here.


DC2It’s a pleasure to have with us again today Dragon Team Five, captains Holly Geely & Foy S. Iver. The two usually write fantasy/dark fantasy respectively, but both don’t hesitate to emphasize they love most well-rounded characters & parodies and punchlines (Holly) and unique voices and plots whose originality sear one’s memory (Foy). Want to know more? Check out their most recent judgy comments here.     


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

* Today’s required word count: Tolstoy went long; we’re going short! 100 – 150 words  (100 min – 150 max words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (this week 100 – 150 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: Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s gorgeously complex tale of a socialite in Tsarist Russia who struggles between her desire for happiness and loyalty to her family.

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). 

* Conflict: man vs self
Character: unhappy socialite
Theme(s) (choose one): tradition, social progress, the value of family/marriage
Setting: Tsarist Russia

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

Scene from "Anna Karenina," 1914 Russian film by Vladimir Gardin. Photo is in the public domain in the United States.

Scene from “Anna Karenina,” 1914 Russian film by Vladimir Gardin. Photo is in the public domain in the United States.

322 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 34

  1. Josh Bertetta
    “For Better or For Worse”
    150 Words
    Character (unhappy socialite) and theme (marriage)

    “Oh why thank you dahling, but I think it is so dreadehfully awful. How could pahssibly think it would look good on me and match these atroh-ciously hideous earrings? Why thank you dahling, you are too too kind…Sometimes I—

    “And do what dahling? Go back to my parents? Back to the farm? Of course not, don’t let’s be silly…

    “I can’t dahling, even if I wanted to. He has me wrapped around his little fingers, has me nestled in his soft supple hands…Oh how I hate his soft supple hands. Seriously dahling, how much lotion does a man need? Sometimes I wish, just once…

    “Oh just forget it. No dahling, I can’t! I wouldn’t! I couldn’t…Though his hands are

    “Never mind dahling, never mind. Wistful fantasies, that’s all they are, just dreamy dreamy fantasies… Rugged hand—

    “Oh! I love my husband dahling, I love him, I really really do.”


  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 147
    Story Elements: Conflict (Man v. Self)/Theme (social progress)

    Daughter of Eve

    You’re a woman, you say.

    Ice edges your words, crackling around them as frost splinters them into a thousand heart-piercing shards.

    Centuries of tradition direct you. I see your inner war as you utter your words. You cannot help it. The tributaries flow to the riverbed. A riverbed cuts a canyon over time, and water cannot change its course in a stone fissure.

    You’re a woman, you say.

    You don’t comprehend the strength before you. I am a dam, my bulwark shatter-proof. Might flows through my foundations. It races along my support rods, shores up my bricks and mortar. It is who I am.

    Without me, your currents wash to the sea, lost in tides of salt and oblivion.

    Your words hold truth, though you don’t realize. Even now, they form on your lips, and you still don’t understand.

    You’re a woman, you say.


    I am.


  3. Character: unhappy socialite
    Theme: a dash each of tradition, social progress, the value of family/marriage
    150 marriage proposals

    The Gamble

    “There is an elegance about Katarina, don’t you think, Frederick?”

    “I have only seen her through frosted glass of late, Margaret. She seems such a sad blur.”

    “There you have it. A future dowdy dowager. You must save her from such a fate, Freddie. Lately, she has been traipsing about Moscow in a chaotic cyclone of social engagements. She gives little thought to her reputation, the wake of disembowelled suitors she has cast adrift.”

    “Not exactly marriage material.”

    “Ah, but you are mistaken. Her frenetic pace speaks to a great dissatisfaction. She needs a port in which to anchor her heart.”

    “I am not a harbour, Maggie. I do not want to wed an old tramp steamer.”

    “Such harsh words, Freddy. Katarina is a modern woman. She will make an exciting wife. A stimulating mother for the children…of a courageous man. Are you such a man?”

    Am I, I wonder?




    Brian S Creek
    131 words
    character (unhappy socialite)
    theme (value of family / marriage)


    Do you ever wish to be more normal?

    I do, every day. Things would be simpler.

    I used to look down at those below me, people like you, who probably didn’t realise how fortunate they were that I’d even give them the time of day.

    But now I see that the anonymity of the lower classes has its benefits. Your lives aren’t magnified, your secrets aren’t simmering just under the surface, waiting to be ripped out and exposed.

    All because of a family name that I can’t afford to have dragged through the mud.

    Mother wants me married. Mother wants a grandchild.

    And all I want, every second of every day, is to be with him.

    What do you get the man who has everything?

    The one thing he can’t have.


  5. Her Proposal (Word Count: 110)
    Conflict: Man vs. Self
    Theme: Tradition

    What would people say?

    A man and woman meet. Perhaps they fall in love. If they do, her role is passive, his, active. He pursues. She demurs. If he presses well, his case is won.

    For a woman to ask, seek, press—to win—what would they say?

    He was resting under the tree. His head leaned on his breast, sunlight melting gold and green in his hair, a blanket thrown over crippled legs.

    His eyes opened.

    A quiet smile on a fragile young face.

    “Mary. You’re here.”

    “Robert.” She went to his chair and, hesitating, took his hands. Serious, she kissed them. “Robert. I have something to ask you.”


  6. Lavender Girl
    131 words
    David Shakes

    Character (unhappy socialite) Theme (social progress)

    I realise now that I am become the champagne glass I hold – sparkling, slender and elegant and yet so very easily broken.
    In this room there are many glasses, all identical, all fizzing over with promises that will be as flat as my dreams come morning.
    I move towards the balcony as a light breeze fetches the scent of lavender from below. It reminds me of home, of family.
    Behind me now are the champagne glasses and light chatter, so many voices with such little to really say.
    Below me, a scented courtyard and the road back to where I truly belong.
    My glass slips from my hand, catches the light briefly, then shatters across the cobblestones.
    I take one last look behind me and then I join it.


  7. The Duchess and the Railwayman
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    149 words
    Character and theme

    Gisselle lay on the silken sheets watching her lover dress. Those callused hands that a short time ago had caressed her body to ecstasies she hadn’t known existed were going back to their first love, building railways. ‘Oh Isambard, must you go?’

    ‘Aye, lass. I’ve got a meeting at Paddington.’

    Giselle pressed the back of her hand to her forehead. ‘I don’t think I can bear it.’

    ‘Nice try, love.’

    ‘You see, no-one has ever talked or made love to me like you.’

    Isambard shrugged on his heavy coat releasing the irresistible perfume of smoke and engine oil. ‘You know me, pet. Once I get up a head of steam.’

    ‘There you go again. What is poor defenceless woman supposed to do? Come back to bed and let me stoke your fires of desire.’

    ‘I admit your voluptuous coach work is tempting. But nay girl, I must make tracks.’


  8. Social Status

    Everybody expected me to say yes.

    Eager eyes smiled at me from around the room, heads inadvertently nodded and phones were clutched tightly, thumbs poised to instantly share my affirmation with the world.

    I smiled, but inside I was panicking. It was like trying to find the light switch in the dark as my brain searched for the right words, something to soften the impact of my next sentence. But there was only one word I could say and I knew that this word would tarnish my relationship with friends, family; with you. One small word would erase the status they all thought I had and, in their eyes, condemn me to a world of anonymity.

    Fact is, I never wanted it in the first place and now, here I was, having to announce it publicly.

    Ready for the swell of disappointment, I finally spoke.

    ‘No, I’m not on Facebook.’

    150 words
    Conflict and Theme


  9. “May”
    Character and Theme
    149 words

    We took flight at the time of the Great Emergence, abandoning our ugly husks to become the angels we were meant to be.
    Velvet sky full of our laughter, no longer confined to the wine dark waters, we were free and full of the passion.
    Oh, how we danced!
    How we spun. How we fluttered!
    And there she was; my beloved. Unmistakable, even in this new form.
    And there HE was.
    Never a hungry trout when you need one.
    The dance pin-wheeled about them, lofting them towards the light.
    Cold air doused my feeble wings and it was all I could do to watch and call her name.
    She no longer heard.
    My betrothed had forsaken me. What use this second life? What use this empty sky?
    That light. Captivating in its flickering. It called to them.
    They were chosen.
    Blinding flashes of God’s grace.
    And I, left behind.


  10. Anna
    150 Words
    Character and Theme

    The bubbles having gone flat on her socialite lifestyle, Anna sat alone in the corner, her champagne untouched for an hour, and watched the scene prance its wicked dance.

    She no longer heard the call of the music, the pristine tinkling of the glasses or the idle gossip about the Tsar. She no longer felt anything inside.

    Anna had been living in society for years to avoid family commitments. It was easy at first to ignore the pull deep within telling her to return home; but now father had gone, it had become impossible.

    Taking one last look around, Anna found and downed a shot of vodka before heading into for the driving St Petersburg snow.

    Outside Anna felt something once more and she smiled, thinking of all the warmth she would find in the family home, how it would fill her up as the bubbles and bubbliness once had.


  11. Something worthwhile
    Conflict and theme (social progress)
    149 photogenic words

    I put my canapé down and beam as Richard leans in for a photo. It’s my third charity ball this week, and the fizz is starting to taste sour.

    Mishka from last year’s girl band has the same dress on. That’s great; ‘Who wore it best?’ is always near the front. That beats the charity spreads at the back, hands down.

    Dad had a word last time I went home. ‘Have you thought again about university, love? Or a job? Something worthwhile. This telly lark, well…’ He screwed his face up. It isn’t my fault I was spotted though, it all just happened. It keeps happening. Which reminds me, Dale said I need to get a picture with Jamie, for next week’s headline story. Alex doesn’t mind.

    Anyway, I will do something worthwhile. I’ll set up a charity foundation, to help sick kids in hospitals.

    After the next series.


  12. It is not in our stars…
    by Joey To

    The Prince eyes the planet below, glowing blue with white swirls, a cocktail of beauty and innocence.

    Or so it seems from orbit. He huffs and fixes the collar of his double-breasted vest.

    “Master, the ball is underway. The King asks for you.”

    The Prince doesn’t turn from the window. “Tell Father I’ll be there soon.”

    The old man sighs.

    “It was you who advised me to tell the King about… her,” mumbles the Prince, still gazing below, searching for that now blackened land.

    “And you regret it?” asks the old man.

    “No.” But the Prince hears his.

    “The King cares for you, for all of us. It is why we journeyed here.”

    The Prince sneers. “Yes, we need humanity for our survival. And yet, he enslaves them and forbids me to marry her.”

    “Humans are untrustworthy.”

    The Prince spins around with a scowl. “Then we all deserve to burn.”


    Word Count: 150
    Themes: value of marriage vs fallen nature, pseudo-tradition, social progress, class struggle etc.
    Character: unhappy socialite (aristocrat)

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


  13. The Boxer and the Butterfly


    Conflict (man vs self) and Theme (social progress)

    143 words


    The boxer imagines the soft, dry powder of talc soothing roughened knuckles of pain. White dusted on criss-crossed burgundy fissures—a snow-capped mountain of scars.

    The butterfly is trapped in a body that doesn’t belong. Society dictates the mundane caterpillar appearance—dragging the butterfly down.

    The boxer imagines the weight of the gloves, the torsion of biceps, the dancing of feet on springy canvas. The boxer imagines the bloodthirsty collective din of the audience as glove connects with face.

    The butterfly is beaten, derided and punished for being something it should not be.

    The boxer is ready. In the locker room she kisses the picture of her children, ignores the banners telling her place is at home and she enters the arena.

    The butterfly is ready. He covers his injuries in majestic kaleidoscope-colours and walks the streets of Russia with tentative, watchful steps.


  14. All Aboard
    Word Count – 103

    The train is coming; its wheels against the track as it barrels closer. The metal is cool against my neck, ready to end it all.

    “Alexandra!” The wooden door opens and my mother slips in. I don’t turn around but soon her hands are on my shoulders, rubbing her warmth through the lace. Our eyes catch in the mirror. “Enough lingering. It is time.”

    The church bells ring in confirmation. They blur in my mind with the train’s horn, fogging my thoughts with imaginary steam. My head is on the tracks, my life is ending.

    “You look beautiful.”

    The words bring little relief.

    Character: Unhappy Socialite
    Theme: Value of Marriage




    Brian S Creek
    150 words

    conflict (man vs self)
    character (unhappy socialite)


    I look at my watch; five more minutes ‘til show time.

    These gatherings are so boring. We rich people spend countless evenings showing our support to this charity or that cause. Yawn. It’s just an excuse to boast about money and power.

    It’s a legacy I would gladly walk away from if it didn’t come with certain benefits. Invitations are regular, access to venues is generous, and showing my face is an easy alibi.

    Another glance at my watch again and I decide it’s time. A quick excuse and I’m able to slip away to a quieter part of the museum, an area where earlier I stored my other outfit; my real outfit for this evening.

    I dump the tuxedo, pull on my suit, my mask, and a pair of Electro-Gloves, and hurry back to the gathering.

    Rich snobs, the lot of them, but they always wear such fine jewellery.


  16. Blinding ambition

    @geofflepard 145 words: theme (social progress), setting

    Anya’s reflection nodded back. The borrowed crinoline, faux-silk gloves, paste diamonds – every inch the countess. Count Zirovsky, would never know. He demanded authenticity above all else, the fool. He’d promised her a life of indolence. She’d never clean another floor.
    ‘Enchante, my dear. Come.’ Her beau waxed his moustache as he held the carriage door. The scents of leather and polish filled her nostrils. She dreamed.
    ‘We’re here.’ She followed inside, luxuriating in her expectation.
    ‘Careful. The steps are old.’ She held his arm, enjoying its definition. Ancient dust tickled her nose.
    He opened the door and she stepped forward. ‘Where are we?’ She took in the stone floor, boarded windows, bare walls, chains.
    ‘Your new home. Your castle where no one will bother you ever again.’
    Anya slipped to her knees scuffing her treasured pumps as the bolt slid closed behind her.


  17. Tamara Shoemaker
    Word Count: 147
    Story Elements: Character/Theme


    The first year, passion fuels your touch, tracing searing trails through mundane housework. Wiping bookshelves is a moonlit dance by the Sienne as your body curves around mine, dust cloth forgotten.

    The fifth year, your glance doesn’t stray from your morning paper as I place your coffee on the table. I return to the sink, but my lips are cold where they miss your warmth.

    The tenth year, you don’t call when you work late. You pass me in the hall, swirling the air with frost.

    We are strangers, you and I. When once we met with fevered glances and whispered promises, now your back is a fortress on the sheets, immovable. Less than twenty inches separate us. A gulf of a thousand miles keeps us apart.

    In the stillness, I raise my hand and trail it along your back. My touch is a ten-year bridge.


  18. Getting There

    She shut her eyes, and tried to think of happier times. Mama and their train rides in Europe, when she and had been little girl.

    “You never know who you will meet on a train,” Mama said. “Or what you will discover at your next stop.”

    Papa had wanted them to use a driver.

    “Trains are for ordinary people. No privacy.”

    Ironically, it was the one place Lise Langston felt out of public scrutiny.

    When you’re privileged, nothing you create is enough.

    She’d tried the stage.

    “Heiress needs to hire someone to act for her.”

    She’d tried marriage.

    “Langston’s husband sleeps with nanny.”

    Like a lioness, she was hunted for her skin, captured and printed in the tabloids.
    Her philanthropy bought her no peace or respect.

    Finally, she’d began buying pills.

    Like trains, pills took you places. Hopefully, tonight’s handful would take her to the end of the tracks.

    148 words


  19. Train of Thought
    119 words
    Theme: progress
    Character: unhappy socialite
    Also conflict: (wo)man vs. self

    The whistle of the train. A puff of smoke. A scream. A soul’s final moments in its body. Progress came and stripped away all I knew. A way for my husband Duke Ellington—no not the jazz singer, he would come much later—to escape the confines of a sour social marriage only meant to propel his status.

    But my final moments showed him. My threats were not to be taken lightly. Stepping onto the track as the industrial-aged machine beckoned me toward my death I knew I’d have the last laugh. For his heir, the sole intent of his marriage had been buried deep in my womb and upon my autopsy he would realize all he had lost.


  20. Tsarist Russia

    Happy ever After

    Mishka walked dreamily up the golden curving staircase, tears rolling down the smooth skin of her white face, making her fur collar damp. There was no escape from Puten. He pulled the strings of her entire family like a master puppeteer. She watched them dance and jig ridiculously to his every whim.
    Since the proposal, Father was even more blind to her than before. Mother just twittered inanely of silks and jewelry, and the amount of cases one could safely stack on a train.
    Mishka walked beneath her own winter cloud, lonely in the chill. The misery weighed heavily on her thin shoulders.
    When she decided to do it, she felt a peculiar lightening. The end would be quick, and infinitely preferable to a slow death of constriction in a loveless snake of a marriage.


  21. Mummy-Number-Four
    150 words
    Conflict: man vs self
    Theme: the value of family/marriage

    The train goes clickerty-clack. Mummy-Number-Four squishes me with her arm, telling me a story.

    “Once upon a time a little girl lived with her daddy on an army base. She never knew when he would be home, or when they’d move base, and she was sad. Her toy Toto dog was her only stable thing.

    “The little girl grew up and married a soldier. But still her life was uncertain, and she was lonely, despite her new baby. She gave the baby her Toto dog and she left to look for a life of stability.

    “I don’t know where she is now, but when you cuddle your Toto dog, you can think of her. And she’ll be thinking of you, too.”

    Mummy-Number-Four smiles at me. I stop myself smiling back. But I don’t sit so stiffly as the train rushes on, and I fall asleep, cuddling my scruffy Toto dog.


  22. The Matryoshka Doll
    (148 words)
    unhappy socialite/ tradition/ family marriage

    Crafted in the school room by governesses who gave me the words of Latin, English, French and polite exchanges; my outer shell parroted conversations fit for the company of gentry. Wrapped in finery,  painted and decorated, I was not intended for the shelf. I was designed to find my husband in the Tsar’s palace ballrooms for my family’s convenience.

    Shape complicated my inner shell. I found a desire at my core to articulate the words of politics, philosophy and love. I sought out the books that gave my thoughts flight. My ideas were given form and conciousness was born. But choice was veiled in secrets.

    And within that very core, the most precious secret was conceived. I vowed I would keep the beautiful creation at my centre. I promised this new life I would nurture nature and so I severed myself from the life for which I was carved.



  23. Cold
    109 words
    Character: unhappy socialite
    Theme: tradition

    Everything is cold.

    The Baccarat crystal decanters lined with precision on the sideboard. The Paul Storr silver, arranged artistically on the table. The Italian marble floors, stretching to infinity.

    Everything is cold.

    The socialites, interspersed throughout the ballroom. A riot of rich fabrics, a sea of swirling color – yet none of that gaiety reaches a single face.

    Everything is cold.

    The eyes of my mother and father. The eyes of the man they have chosen as my husband.

    Everything is cold.

    My world is a fragile bubble of chilled porcelain – beautiful to look at, painful to touch.
    So why is the iron rail pressing against my cheek strangely warm?


  24. Cougar
    149 words
    character: unhappy wife/socialite
    theme: the questionable value of marriage

    A short skirt, a slash of lipstick. The silky slide of stockings. Moisturizer to soak away crow’s feet.
    She’s spent adulthood trapped in the house, covered in Cheerios and applesauce and the goo of children. Doing the right thing. Being a good mother. Fading away. Losing her lust.

    Her husband doesn’t reach for her anymore, or when he does, it’s a mechanical act, an endurance of squashed breasts and habitual thrusting.

    She prowls, hips swaying, lush lips pouting.

    She sets her drink on the bar beside a boy. Twenty-three, maybe. Her son’s age. His gaze runs up her legs.

    His youth, his energy, his bright, beaming lust—they’re the tonics she requires. He won’t last long; he’s a temporary toy—but she doesn’t need more.

    “Hi,” she murmurs. “Can I buy you a drink?”

    His easy face transforms. Dismay, disgust, even.

    “Lady—you’re old enough to be my mother.”


  25. Unhappy Socialite
    Tsarist Russia
    137 Words

    Brokered Bride

    “But, Mama, he looks everywhere else, never at me. And I don’t want someone as old as Papa in my bed.”

    “You must do your job, and never forget it. What would your Papa say to hear you speak thus?”

    “I don’t care. I want true love.”

    “Pishtosh, there is no true love in marriage. You shall take a lover for your true love, you ignorant child.”

    “If I must, then I shall. But I shall have the best lover in Russia. And this great-man-of-the-court you’ve picked for me shall be cuckolded before the sheets are cooled from the honeymoon. I shall have my happiness.”

    “Why, your highness, what a pleasure to meet you. I’ve been so longing for my Anna to have the honor of a dance with you. Yes, she is very young and lovely.”


  26. A Place More Interesting
    100 words – character and theme (tradition)

    The wire contraption forced her to take contrived steps as they entered. She held her father’s arm, floral music whispered around the room. At the end of the line await a man, met only once. His smile seemed genuine, though her mother’s was mixed with fresh tears. Again, she found the monologue repeated in her head and she steeled herself – if not this man, it would surely be another, crueler one. Walking up aisle, attendees glowed and grimaced. Her heart slammed against her ribcage and she studied her fiancée. His eyes sharp, she hoped that he’d make things more interesting.


    • I like the small flicker of hope that emanates from this. Makes you glad that women have greater freedoms these days.


  27. Cold Feet

    I stare blankly as my bride walks down the aisle. A smile stays on my face through sheer willpower.

    I know how lucky I am. She is beautiful, or so I am told. She has made enough money that I will never have to work again. She makes me laugh, and makes me think. Any man would be lucky to call her his wife.

    As she gets closer I start to shake, fighting the urge to run. My best man places a reassuring hand on my shoulder, a gesture meant to steady my nerves. Instead it makes my heart race and my face flush red. I should have told him. I tried, but those three words stuck in my throat, the sharp barbs of tradition holding them at bay.

    The priests voice booms in my ears, “Does anyone know of any reason these two shall not be married?”

    I do.

    150 words
    Themes: Man vs Self, Tradition.


  28. @colin_d_smith
    Character: Unhappy socialite
    Theme/Title: “The Value of Family”
    Word Count: 134

    Three glasses of champagne and some of Joey’s “magic dust” did the trick. Hailey glanced over at the sleeping figure under the sheets as she pulled on her stockings. She felt dirty, but a shower was out of the question. No time. She zipped up her dress and found the hidden camera on the dresser.

    An hour of Hi-Def video. No problem—it was all over in twenty minutes. The question now: who gets the goods? His oblivious wife, or the salivating tabloids?

    In a just world, she would send it to his wife.


    She looked again at the fetal form of the judge who gave her sister a prison cell for stealing baby food. A prison cell in which she died.

    The tabloids were too good for him. But they would do.


  29. Hope Springs
    (150 words)
    Conflict (inner)/Theme (value of marriage)

    Her marriage needed a change. The fault lay with him and her – mostly her.

    Truth like a dagger shredded the lie of unreal expectations. Marriage would never provide escape from the miserable person she carried within. Nothing could bring any happiness that she didn’t grab for herself.

    The option lay before her, stripped naked. End this train wreck of a marriage under the wheels of divorce. Severing heart strings against the cold steel of reality. It would be a mercy killing.

    Or, she could resurrect her marriage on the wings of hope. After all, her new-found faith had shone the light on the mess she’d made of her existence. Perhaps the self changes it brought might . . . but. The time for hope had shriveled away under cold eyes, forgotten embraces, and civil words coming fewer and farther between . . . yet.

    Tomorrow was a new day.


  30. Off the Rails
    by Joey To

    “What’re you doing on this train?”

    “I have been assigned to care for this man. You?”

    “See that brunette talking to Mr I-go-to-the-gym-often? Been trying to look after her since conception.”

    “Sounds like you are having difficulty.”

    “Well, she is on this train. Failed to convince her otherwise.”


    “Your first assignment?”

    “Yes, a temporary one as additional protection. I just boarded but I cannot see the original guardian. You have not answered my question.”

    “This is a so-called love train… like a love boat cruise but on land.”

    “So the passengers are searching for love?”

    “If by that you mean vainglorious adventure-seeking lechers, then yes. Been trying to inspire this woman and others, including your guy, to commit to marriage instead.”

    “How do they organize this?!”

    “Internet and anti-social media; there’s even websites for swapping spouses.”

    “I am considering derailing this locomotive.”

    “Our missing colleague is probably already—”


    Word Count: 150
    Themes: the value of family/marriage, social “progress”
    Conflict: man vs self

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


  31. The Dowager Empress
    130 words

    They call her the dowager empress. In Bosnia, she had been a lawyer.

    It’s been 20 years since they made their way to the border with their dog in a  travel bag.  Her husband was a doctor. He died 6 years ago. The kids are grown, now–her son is a veterinarian.
    Her daughter, who liked to build bridges, is studying to be an architect.

    She once had a fur coat and a garden with peonies. They have made a new life, here.

    She was the one who held the family  together.  Her baked goods won over landlords. Her stories charm lawyers, still. The accent lingers, though her English is better, now.

    They call her the dowager empress, but she’s a teacher these days. She’s teaching new arrivals the ways of this new land.


    • A positive look at an immigrant family, nice to see kids have achieved something with their lives despite having to flee their country. The empress sounds like a lovely woman as she continues to help new immigrants and refugees.


  32. Unhappy Socialite AND The Value of Family/Marriage

    ‘Till Death We’re Apart’ (149 words)

    Karen-Anne hoisted her skirt higher, lifting the hem clear from the floor. The Countessa was displeased; her marriage today was going exactly as planned. But at least her parents were pleased.

    Raking her head around, she surveyed the church. So many people and all of them expecting today to go flawlessly. Mumsie’s money could buy almost everything. But it couldn’t buy her compliance.

    The door to the side chapel creaked and Thomas’ beard pushed through, the gap barely wide enough to admit it without it bushing out again as it came through. Time to go.

    Turning sharply, she pulled away from her father, his face collapsing in on itself when he recognised the intent in her eyes. Of course one of her heels collapsed, the crack echoing across the nave as the organist’s playing faltered, so she slipped off the shoes, whispered a brief heartfelt ‘sorry’ and then ran.


  33. The Saddest of Lies
    A.J. Walker

    Character: unhappy socialite. Theme: the value of marriage
    150 words @zevonesque

    Anna held her mothers limp hand, looking into her rheumy eyes. She could feel the life ebbing away.

    “Oh mother what lives we’ve had.”

    She thought she could see a trace of a smile beneath the rumpled pallid skin.

    “But why did you lie? You said I needed to find myself a rich man to look after me.”

    Tears rolled down Anna’s cheeks.

    “Now I realise the utter falseness of that notion. My marriage with the Prince, and before that the Duke, had wonderfully bright and gay moments. I’ve had the choicest of wines, danced in incredible balls and, of course, the food. But such shallowness. They’ve always cheated and I accepted this – payment for my comfort.”

    Anna paused and swallowed the remaining tablets.

    “I only ever loved Richard. He’s married with children and as happy as could be. Poor and happy – you never told me that was possible mother.”


  34. Spoilers – (based on a true story)

    Siobhan looked at her father, Dougal, and said, “Why on earth would you want to read a book where the heroine’s unrequited love causes her to commit suicide?”
    Dougal sputtered, spraying Lady Grey tea in a fine mist across the breakfast table. “Why would you do that?” He shouted.
    “Do what?”
    “Tell me what happens!”
    “I read the back of the book,” Elizabeth said.
    Gus shoved his chair back from the table, slapped his napkin down, and stomped from the room.
    “What’s with him?” Siobhan asked her mother.
    “You know he doesn’t read the back of the book, he doesn’t want to know any details.”
    “He wants to get over himself. He sprayed tea all over my blouse. I’ll have to change before I go and meet Kieran and Isobel. That’s a bloody nuisance.”
    “Siobhan Malloran! You watch your tongue and your attitude.”
    “Sorry, Ma. But that books ancient.”

    Word Count 149
    Elements: Character; Theme – Tradition.


  35. February in St. Petersburg, 1917

    Orla watched the peasants marching. Their chanting was muted by the thick glass, but their banners were easy to see. Two of them read ‘We Demand Bread’, and ‘Freedom To Live’. She couldn’t sympathise with the first, but she understood the second.
    From across the room her mother said, ”When will the Okhrana deal with that rabble?”
    “Oh, Mother. Their harmless. It’s time for freedom, this is the twentieth century.”
    “People should know their place.”
    “I know my place, Mother.”
    Orla shook her head, unwilling to discuss the marriage arranged for her.
    Falling snow created a shifting curtain which hid the marchers. Orla felt more separated from her mother than the people down on the street. Down there was the future. Her mother looked only to the past.
    ‘Freedom to live’ Orla thought, ‘give me the freedom to live.’

    140 Words
    Elements: Setting; Theme – Tradition & Social Progress


  36. 16:42. Kurskaya Station. A whistle blows. She’s waiting on a bridge. Six minutes away. Legs dangling. Six minutes, she thinks. She closes her eyes, and he’s there. Once, she thinks. Once. And there was a time when once made sense. Alone and happy. Without prejudice. But not any more. She hears the slow chug, pushes, feels the breeze against her face and falls.


  37. Haemorrhage in St. Petersburg

    149 words
    Setting and theme (social progress) plus a bit of conflict


    Father Gapon looked across at the dishevelled creature. The monk was filthy, his stench almost unbearable. Yet he forced himself to politeness. The man had the ear of the Tsar and Tsarina after all.

    “It is right Grigori Yefimovich that we should align ourselves to put an end to the suffering of our people,” he said.

    Rasputin laughed as he tossed back another vodka. “Ah, yes. We are both holy men are we not? But I wonder … which side is God truly on, your poor workers or my Nikolai Alexandrovich? Will God be with you tomorrow?”

    And as he stood with the peaceful crowd in front of the Winter Palace, Gapon waited for an answer. The Imperial Guard responded with their guns.

    Rasputin might have been able to stop young Alexei from bleeding but he had no intention of stopping the haemorrhage of Mother Russia. He merely watched.


  38. Keeping Up With the Joneses Kardashians
    Margaret Locke
    margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke
    119 words

    Happy Anniversary? Ha, as if. How can it be happy when he won’t give me what I want most in the world, a diamond-encrusted Apple iWatch? I need one, if I’m going to keep on top of all my social engagements, fashion fittings, and television appearances.

    The lifestyle of the rich and famous is rough, people. Add in beauty, and I swear, you have no idea the stress I face every day. It simply won’t do for me to be without the latest and the greatest.

    What would People say? Heaven forbid Perez Hilton learn I’m living on last year’s fads. iPad Mini? Whatever. That’s so 2014.

    They say money can’t buy happiness. Whatever. It bought him a wife.


  39. Duty (After the Wedding Night)

    Irina lifted her nose, exposing the pale skin of her neck. I’ve married an ugly man. Her gaze drifted through the guard men nearby, building what if castles with handsome faces inside a bored daydream.

    Boisterous laughter startled her, and she studied the mirthful man. Weight aged him slightly, his dark brown mustaches reached across the carefully trimmed beard. Father is pleased.

    Beneath the intricate dress of red velvets, the stays pressed uncomfortably against her, and Irina shifted. Her movement caught the attention of a man as he flashed a jagged tooth smile beneath a hooked nose. Her husband nodded toward her, admiration in his expression.

    The scarlet highlighted her blush, and Irina offered a smile. A grimace pulled at her mouth instead, her father’s words repeating in her head, “It is a good match, Irina. You will give him fine sons. It is your duty. It is tradition.”

    149 Words


  40. Conflict (Wo)Man vs Self
    Character Unhappy Socialite
    150 words

    Beetroot Soup Again

    This is not the life I envisaged. So dull being a trophy wife. Sick to death of retail therapy. When not buying clothes I need but don’t want, I’m in the nail bar or working out at the gym. Women like me are expected to be seen at all the gallery openings, first nights and parties. Resplendent in high fashion and even higher heels, enormous designer bags at our elbows.
    We don’t want this. We want what we can’t have. We want to kick off our shoes and run into the forest. We want messy hair and chipped nails. We want Jem, the tattooed gardener. For example. We think of him when we’re with our husbands, hanging from their arms. Getting into the papers. Being seen.
    Unfortunately not so much of us can be seen. So its beetroot soup again. I could murder a pizza and massive box of chocolates.


  41. @PattyannMc
    WC: 150
    Conflict: (Woman vs Self)
    Theme: Value of family

    Hush Little Baby

    Jealousy claws at my chest. Punching through my flesh; shredding my very soul.

    I must breathe as though I am not at odds with Fyodor’s demands for another child. The Tsar loves me not, abominates the sight of my face, my bosom, yet he wishes for an heir.

    I believed I’d find my true love within the breast of our first-born; I did not. She, Diana has netted his heart, while I lay dithering, desiring his kindness.

    I cannot nurse my daughter; the thought of her lips round my nipple brings abhorrence to my thoughts. Her beautiful face, so innocent, so perfect cause’s detestation in my heart.

    I ponder it is not she, but her father whom I truly detest, and I ‘must’ strike, at, his, heart.

    “Hush little baby,” I coo, as I lay her body upon the trestle-tracks, anticipating the train. I know shall burn perpetually for this . . .


  42. @OpheliaLeong
    Word Count: 137
    Character (unhappy socialite) and Themes (tradition and marriage)

    Valentina’s Wedding

    Valentina fingered her neck and knew it was the last time it would be untainted. It was her duty as the only daughter of the Gorgovich family to marry the Crown Prince, but it went against her whole being. Her family’s reputation was solidified, of course, and her father’s trade interests secured. However, she knew what the Crown Prince was and ever since she’d heard the news, inside she’d been shrieking as loud as the cry of a steam train.
    Valentina’s starched white gown, lace bountiful and white as a swan’s wing, constricted her. She wondered if it would stay white the whole night. She rather doubted it.
    She took a shuddering breath and stood taller. Let it be said that Valentina Gorgovich did her duty with honor and bravery.
    After all, her fiance was a vampire.


  43. Theme: Conflict and character

    Anina and the Metro

    Anina woke late, the sun bearing an illusory promise of a bright, fulfilling day. Hours earlier, she adorned another bed until daylight chased her from illicit silk to reluctant refuge in matrimonial cotton; a GNO gone-on her admittance ticket.
    A shadowed depression in her husband’s pillow echoes the hollow deepening inside.
    He, a 21st century Muscovite nabob under the current Tsar’s reign; sometime Lothario and influence trader, departed before six, trailing cold disinterest in his wake.
    Besmirched make-up parallels her confused soul, the shower dealing with the former but her shrinking circle of friend’s whispers of darkening days ahead. One young friend, Katerina, unknowingly mocks her; finding an equilibrium in life and love where Anina discovers only tumult, uncertainty and disappointment.
    Anina’s texts to her lover go cruelly unanswered, yet again, until an appalling destiny suggests itself, culminating beneath the shrieking wheels of a tube train at Polyanka Metro station.

    Paul Shaw


  44. A Traditional Welcome
    A.J. Walker

    Theme: tradition Setting: Tsarist Russia
    (150 words – @zevonesque)

    “Aydin pivo, pazhalsta,” said Henry, to the barman.

    Ivan banged his fist on the table, shaking his head. “No, look thanks for trying with the Russian, but you’re not in Lancashire now. Whilst you can still speak english here, you will be drinking Russian my friend.”

    Ivan nodded towards the bar and two vodka’s were plopped down.

    Henry sighed, it was going to be a long three months. He’d only been in the town for an hour and hadn’t yet seen the mine.

    Ivan raised his glass. “To the new Chief Engineer!”

    “To the Tzar!” said Henry.

    Possibly three bottles of vodka later they’d proved they’d not had enough bread and mutton to soak it up with; but Henry was happy singing songs; feeling like a local already.

    “I’ve not a cat’s chance of surviving this contract, but who care’s!” he shouted, before collapsing into the swelling heap of drunkenness.


  45. Conflict and Character
    150 suspects.

    Room 4. Attempting to fuse the whole sordid pantomime together for the benefit of the tape. Work it out with a pencil, like the constipated mathematician said.
    Thinking down to their speed was like being stuck behind a bus. No matter how much I filled those mirrors there was no getting out of second.
    Unexpected body in the baggage area. Under the strip light’s brutal honesty it was all I could do not to laugh. This was the point at which I would shout at the telly about unbelievable scripts.
    The duty officer rubbed her eyes.
    >Tell me again how the butler ended up with the knife in his back.<
    Once more. With feeling..
    The butler. His hands full of me. Then eyes full of fear. Then his back full of Sheffield steel.
    His lordship. Red faced. Then red handed.
    Never knew he had it in him.
    So to speak.


  46. The Train to Petrograd
    Word count: 149
    Character: unhappy socialite
    Theme: social progress
    Photo prompt used

    She knew, of course, what was coming. The train to Petrograd. His future. Her past. As it approached she knelt by the rails and touched the cold metal. The vibration of the approaching train penetrated her thick gloves. She adored him once, that boyish Ulyanov. Perhaps she still did, but his coming meant the end of her world.

    She could still remember young Ulyanov’s kiss, warm and powerful. A long time ago, before revolution captured his passion and darkened his soul. The train was almost upon her. She made the sign of the cross and gently placed her neck across the cool rail. The train whistled a warning, but did not stop.

    “What was that about?” The man once known as Ulyanov asked.
    “Nothing important. It seems a young noble woman took the opportunity of your arrival to do herself in.”
    “Ah, Well.” Lenin smiled. “The first of many.”


  47. Graveyard Shift

    The old Ford Escort was filled with the sounds of metallic crunches as the men stomped the beer cans into the grimy carpet.

    “Another round, boys? We have time,” Tom said from the driver seat.

    Affirmations were uttered all around, except for Lenny who, sitting passenger, fingered a cigarette burn in the cloth hesitantly. From the back seat Juan squeezed Lenny’s shoulders. “This is the best part of my day. Y’all better believe it,” he said.

    “Mine too,” Eric said next to him. “I get crapped on at home. I get crapped on at work. These lunch sessions are the only thing that keeps my brains in my skull.”

    “You don’t got no brains,” Tom said. Everyone laughed.

    Lenny looked at his coworkers in the dim light. These drinking sessions had gotten him through some tough times too, but come Monday, he would be promoted and something had to happen.

    150 words
    Conflict: Man Vs Self; Theme: Tradition


  48. Just Chicken

    Boxes—we’re taught in a particular order. Check them off. Order to prevent the chaos of it all.

    I push the peas around my plate, ignore the chicken, and wash it all back with a healthy swig of silence. It’s a great year for this particular vintage of nothing. Merlot is terribly last year, screams of desperation. He sent me to rehab for my desperation.

    Sips of silence, that’s what this is—resignation.

    He’s greying at the temples and chews his food with determination as if it might attempt escape. There is no escape. Chicken, it’s always chicken. Can you imagine a boneless, skinless breast doing life without parole on a plate, planning the ultimate jailbreak.

    “Great chicken, June. Petersons are coming for dinner on Friday.”

    “Maybe I’ll prepare a roast.”

    “What about your Cordon Bleu?”

    “Sure, it’s just—” He’s left the room before I can manage the rest. …chicken.

    150 words
    Conflict and Character


  49. @KarenGr4y
    Conflict & Character
    Words: 150
    Title: Hitch

    Extravagant wedding feast pales in comparison to ivory skin and stormy sea-green eyes watching from across the room.

    My wife sits by my side — russet ringlets falling softly, just brushing her soft, plump breasts.

    She rests her head on my shoulder with a sweet sigh — her jasmine fragrance caressing my senses in the same manner that those sea-green eyes caress me from afar.

    A little thing, younger than I, but far more ‘experienced.’

    I wonder if the wanting is clear in my expression — I hope to hide it as they draw close.

    My wife straightens and claps her hands with glee. “You made it, oh I am glad!”

    We had met before, you understand, in secret. When hot panted breaths crashed like ocean waves.

    I offer my hand, and smooth fingers slide across my palm when it is released.

    “Rolph my darling, I am thrilled to introduce my cousin; Derek.”


  50. Labor of Love

    Nadezhda could have listened to his speeches for hours. No one could articulate the plight of the Russian proletariat quite like he, but with her, he was always business-like, a true comrade, nothing more. Working with him, she would often say, was a labor of love. Not bourgeois love, but the love arising from doing good work for the proletariat.

    When her mother brought Nadezhda Volodya’s letter asking her join him in exile, as his fiancé, Nadezhda was concerned.

    She wrote to him, “Marx has said that marriage only perpetuates male domination over women. You, yourself, have spoken against ‘household bondage.’ Why should I subject myself to that which oppresses my gender?”

    His reply, “Because the people need an example of marriage beyond the basis of property, like the tsar and tsarina. Because revolution cannot succeed without women, and I cannot succeed without you.”

    Comrade and husband? How revolutionary.

    @Unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    150 words
    Theme: the value of family/marriage
    Setting: Tsarist Russia


  51. Marble and Steel

    Under the old ways, she couldn’t have mourned him in public. Together, they had created a world where she stood as his equal. Less than a wife, more than a comrade, but satisfying and better than that bourgeois past.

    Volodya’s face and hands were like marble, white and cold. Koba had said he would be preserved for the ages, and Nadezhda couldn’t be sure if this were Volodya’s body or merely an effigy. Koba made the decisions now, Koba, whose demons even Communism couldn’t exorcise. Nadezhda feared those demons still plagued the man who now called himself Stalin. Russia would suffer for it, but she was no prophet. Merely an old and tired revolutionary who knew better than to question a madman.

    Koba said Volodya belonged to the Russian people, now, in perpetuity.

    Why, then, did she feel he still belonged to her?

    Do svidaniya, she thought, revolutionary, comrade. Husband.

    @Unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    150 words
    Conflict: Man vs Self
    Theme: Social progress


  52. @betsystreeter
    149 words
    Character (unhappy socialite) and theme (tradition)



    I am here to silence you.

    You, and your fathers, and your fathers’ fathers, the whole heritage of you.

    Reflected glory, they call it. Marrying well. Go, and stand at the elbow of your man, the one who goes, and does, and conquers.

    The one who lives a life.

    I have stood at your elbow, listening to men no more intelligent than my little finger go on as if their opinions matter.

    The truth is, their opinions do matter, not because of what they say but because of who is saying it.

    In one hundred years someone will say, “The medium is the message.” They will be right.

    Truth is not truth unless wrapped in belief. And that is my plight. I live in shackles of beliefs. Lesser. Silent.

    Now, dear, the train is coming. You will never see me place my hand in the small of your back.


  53. @stellakateT
    148 words
    character / theme (value of marriage/family)

    Lady in Waiting

    We meet in dark corners; I try not to light up when I catch a glimpse of him. I try to stop my heart fluttering in case I swoon. He tells me one day we will be together. I watch his brother the King flaunt his married mistresses. The Queen appears to be unaware of his indiscretions and continues to have a baby each year hoping for a son instead of the stream of pretty princesses. I feel a flutter in my belly. My husband will brag about his continued ability to inseminate me as he leans on his walking stick. I will shyly smile and pray the child does not have the cleft chin that all royal babies sired by the brothers have. If it does I’ll be banished from court, the Queen will think I’m a threat to her marriage, my lover will not save me.


  54. The 4:15 Train from Shenandoah Valley


    Character: Unhappy socialite & Theme: Tradition

    148 words

    Tradition, it’s a funny fing.

    If ida been born earla, perhaps ida been a Hooray Henry, with a tip o me top hat, a classy puff o me sticky-ciggie thing, a swig o me brandy and a posh-geezer drunken swagger to da gents.

    But nah – ima modern social-lite. Stuck indaws with me home-brew. But I know the rules o da game. Fingers raw from FB likes, buyin new friends like I’m loved, like they’re real. Tweeting the masses and a RT if you don’t mind, sir, or is it madam? It’s hard to know if you’re a person at all.

    Got to go… here comes the 4:15 train from Shenandoah Valley towards me virtual station. Now, that’s class. They glide along da rails of success. They win everything. O, but maybe a chance this week? One o them is missing and look, those rails are not joined together.


  55. Barabashka

    Barabashka is wailing, from below, though I broke bread and salt pieces last night after he pinched – sharp – to prompt them from me. I hold blankets tight over my ears, to no avail. His neglect grows louder, penetrating my covered hollow. Bruises the length of my arms, throbbing, I creep through his domain; rules drawn dusky in reminder on the hearth. We guarded one another once; before.

    I spy traces of his finger marks as gusts extinguish the candles, swift. The stove is unlit, tonight. I shuffle, slowly; sound a guide as I shiver onward. Pitch prevails as I grope into the unknown. He has not abandoned post – this I know. There is yet a way to tell what follows. I feel for his form, as Mama told me – to feel his hand in mine. Ice answers me, fur freezing. Eyes watering, I hug myself hard; inevitable cold comfort.


    (150 words)

    Conflict and theme (tradition)


    • More Russian to look up – I’m learning a lot this week! Sounds as though she has neglected her house spirit and his frozen fur indicates he has died as, it seems, has her own spirit. Breaking with tradition can have sad consequences.


  56. “Not Like Them”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Character, conflict
    Word count: 148

    “Look at them. Common tramps. I could never be like them,” Courtney sneered, wrinkling her surgically perfected nose. She could muster no sympathy for the girls, despite the fact that they sagged visibly beneath the weight of the most significant decision of their young lives as they filed silently into the clinic, their fears and guilt not helped a phalanx of rabid religious fanatics waving “BABY KILLER” signs in their faces.

    She wondered, but only for the briefest of moments, what they must be feeling.



    Unloved equally by their own too-young parents and the selfish bastards who had no qualms about putting an unprotected penis inside them.

    “I could never be like them,” she repeated.

    Courtney locked her Mercedes and melted into the queue. But she was not the same as them. She was not a whore. Even if the protesters were screaming it at her.


    • It would be so easy to discount her as a shallow socialite under willful cognitive dissonance. But that middle bit where she “imagines” what the others are feeling… yeah, can’t totally hate her. Well played.


    • Nice take on a difficult topic. Initially I was unsympathetic towards Courtney but you turned that around with her brief moment of consideration for others. I personally have a strong dislike of such protestors as this, they never look at the individual story in each case, they just judge.


  57. “The Delivery”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Theme, setting
    Word count: 149

    Elizaveta struggled to make her way through the thigh-deep snow. Freezing pellets pelted her eyes, and weighted down her hair. Weighing her down more, though, was the burden borne of her mission. She had to see the package, bundled securely in her stiffening arms, delivered to safety.

    Winters in St. Petersburg are not for the faint of heart. Some days, there simply are not enough layers of clothing. But once the spring thaw arrives, love blooms as sweetly as the flowers that adorn the tilia trees lining the Neva River.

    Just short of her goal – the main thoroughfare ahead – Elizaveta collapsed. The cold would soon consume her. This, she knew. Quivering lips prayed that a passerby might see her in time, investigate, and find it in his or her heart to pry the bundle from her frozen arms, take it home, and raise the child as she would have.


  58. Frayed Ties
    by Nancy Chenier @rowdy_phantom
    150 words
    Conflict: man v. self
    Theme: Importance of family

    Awaiting the train back home. A funeral or wedding, something requiring a suit. These parallel lines streak back to—

    —Childhood: hopscotch over ruts, clinker stones chucked at blackberry brambles. The twins standing in for siblings.
    Our parents summer the same lake cottages, their vacation from the parenting they don’t do all year.
    Charlie caught a sneaker in a crosstie. The afternoon gusted steam and screams.

    There’s no steam now. No obvious signs of heat roaring through the heart, unlike in my—

    —Teenage years: cannon balls into the river, dares tangled in the trestles. Bottled boldness filched from unattended cabinets.
    Our clan rejected the half-hearted offers from parents to accompany them to France or Belize.
    Janna dove off the upper railing, but didn’t leap out far enough to land the depths.

    The platform of adulthood. Life without intersection. Envious of friends who disembarked early.

    My own “until” is one step away.


  59. D.E. Park (Dave)
    “Irresistibly Urbane”
    149 Words
    Character (unhappy socialite), theme (marriage), setting (Tsarist Russia)
    Of course I am innocent, Constable.

    Evelina’s sister, Bronya, was the one who introduced us. I gave a brief lecture on the vital fluid and animal magnetism, which Evelina quite enjoyed. Thereafter, we would often meet for tea and discuss Mesmer’s work.

    I believe her husband was away in the war at the time.

    Improper? The very suggestion offends me. I am a practitioner of animal charisma; the vital fluid exudes from my pores, as in Mesmer’s theories. I can sometimes fascinate young women, but I am the very soul of discretion and propriety at all times.

    Evelina? I know only the basic facts. She awoke early, went down to the train station, and disappeared. They found her clothing scattered somewhere down the track.

    What did Bronya say? No, I can’t imagine Evelina distraught. I’m certain that’s just hysteria.

    Naturally, I am utterly innocent. Exactly right. Thank you, Constable.


  60. 150 words. Themes: unhappy socialite, tradition and social progress. Struggled with this.



    I paused. The official was wearing an unctuous smile and proffering the finger scanner. William stopped, giving his acquiescence. I placed my finger on the pad, feeling the bite of needle pierce my skin.

    The official nodded me towards the party. I was pure.

    “Seems pointless really,” William continued idly spearing a passing canapé. “Like the lower stock would have the temerity to crash a gathering like this.”

    I scanned the room. The faces of the genetically pure, a pantheon of superior breeding and a small fortune of genetic engineering, greeted me.

    A serving girl passed. She lingered momentarily and whispered, “rear door. Ten minutes.”

    I made no move to in response; I’d be there. A small romp, more liberating than the stifling formality of genetic matching and negotiations to copulate. Ensure the purity of the progeny…

    I excused myself from William, genteelly. I had something better to do.


  61. @needanidplease
    Theme – tradition
    conflict – man vs. self
    150 words

    The Woman Scorned

    “That shameless hussy!”
    “Uma should be stoned.”

    Meenu silently twisted the edges of her sari and stared straight ahead. The women in the village had gathered to comfort her, but their words failed to soothe her. The heavy weight of traditions weighed her thoughts down. The words shriveled and dried up in her throat, too scared to slip down her tongue.

    She kept staring at the lifeless body of Mohan wrapped in the white shroud. The ocean of Marigold garlands covered him. The crowd crawled like ants in the front yard. They waited for her wails and curses, curses for the hussy who had knifed Mohan.

    Finally, she rose. Her words refused to obey the tradition. She wouldn’t stand by her man. She would rather stand by the truth.

    “I plan to plead to the village council for the release of Uma. She acted in self-defense.”

    The crowd fell silent.


  62. Child Bride
    142 words
    conflict: woman vs. social expectation/duty
    theme: tradition

    They dressed her in silk, tinted her lips, and adorned her arms with bangles.
    Now she sits in a dark room, surrounded by thick walls, awaiting her new husband.
    You belong to him now. Be a good wife. Bear sons.
    He is forty. She is thirteen.
    She has heard of lawyers in the city who help girls like her. The world is changing, yet at this moment the wall of tradition seems impenetrable.
    There is one window in the bedroom.
    A runaway bride is a tainted, dishonorable thing. If she flees, they will kill her. Their honor is their only love.
    She scrapes her knees on the windowsill. The silk rips, and she leaves one fallen ribbon behind. She vanishes into the cold night, in search of a place beyond the walls, a place where she can belong to herself.


  63. @firdausp
    (150 words)
    She came shrouded in the pitch velvet of the night. Her silk dress swishing as she walked from her carriage to his humble cottage.
    He was her only escape from a grim future. The jewel at her throat sparkled as she moved over the cobble stones.
    Her eyes fell on an open window. There he was, smiling down at a pretty woman seated at the kitchen table with a baby on her lap. Green talons of jealousy gripped her heart.
    With a strangled cry she fled, her skirt getting caught in a nearby bush. Tears streaming, she reached her carriage. Her marriage to that pompous idiot her parents had chosen, was inevitable.
    He opened the door and found the piece of her dress caught in the bush. He watched his sister and little niece from the window. A sad smile curled his lips.
    Maybe, it was for the best.

    (Character and Theme)


  64. @PattyannMc
    WC: 150
    Setting: Tsarist Russia
    Theme: Social Progress

    Black Hairy Harry is . . . Lost

    Light cracked the darkness where Black Hairy Harry was hiding in a boot, enjoying familiar odors of sweaty feet. Eight legs skittered over folded clothes, making a beeline outdoors!

    “Lost. Drats!”

    He crawled across cement, all eight eyes clocking the suns descent. He needed shelter, and be quick about it else, he’s fodder for whatever lives wherever he is. Hoisting himself on threads, he found companionship at the top.

    “Whoa, who are-ya?” Harry asked, intimidated by his mates’ size as he began spinning.

    “Red Yegor, Tsar,” I am.

    “Yer not ver-a chatty, can yer tell me where I am?”


    “Gawd, I’m in-a messa hurt!”

    “What you mean?”

    “I’m from ʼmerica; ain’t apposed ta be here. I’m screwed fershure!”

    “Da, I think, yes.”

    Getting acquainted, a bird swooped. Harry saw it.

    “Quick, use yer thread, slide down!”

    Too late for Yegor, he’s a goner. Harry proclaimed ‘himself’ the new Tsar.


  65. @CharlesWShort
    148 words
    Conflict: woman vs. self
    Character: unhappy socialite

    Monday Train

    Pedro saw her every Monday going into the city. Her name was Anna; she spoke it when answering her phone. She was wealthy, a fact discernable from her clothing. She was unhappy, judging from her eyes. She was Russian, because her eyes were that unique shade of gray.

    Pedro enjoyed Mondays. As she returned to her downtown extravagance, and as he journeyed towards his desk, she let him stare into her eyes. She never got embarrassed or looked away. She allowed him to swim there in waters where he could never belong. Tuesday through Friday, Pedro wondered why she allowed it.

    One Monday in April, she got up as they approached her stop. She turned and waved before leaving. Pedro marveled that she had waved. What could it mean?

    A couple months later a woman threw herself under the train. Pedro wondered who would do such a thing.


    • A straight-forward telling of a complicated story. Well done for that; I normality get it the wrong way round.
      Trying to think of other really good examples of stories in which the action of major characters is seen through the eyes of a minor player. Drawing a blank, apart from ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ There must be loads, surely?


  66. For the Love of a Certain Married Woman
    Conflict: man vs self
     Setting: Tsarist Russia
    Word count: 149

    “You look pale,” Ivan said.

    “You’re not my husband.”

    His policeman’s cap was on the chair. This grotesque building, imprisons the Tsarist lawless and the unfortunate sinners.

    There were gun shots outside my bared window. Ivan reached into his pocket. I shuffled into a corner.

    “I’m against this, “he said. He opened the enameled box I gave him last Christmas.

    He was an alchemist. The dark heroin sizzled on a golden spoon. He pushed my sleeve up. My arm was clean.

    “How long?”

    “It’s pure.”

    “Like Siberian snow?”

    There were muffled cries of injustice, revolution, and betrayal lancing through the walls. I looked at the scared ceiling seeing a burning sky flocked against a birch forest. My bare feet were surrounded by snow drop flowers and her laughter.

    ” My crime was to want…her…completely,” I said seeing Svetlana’s freckled face as mine grew numb.


  67. Virtual Ties That Bind
    by Nancy Chenier @rowdy_phantom
    150 words
    Theme (importance of family); Conflict (man vs. self)
    Also, character (unhappy socialite–more obvious in an earlier draft, so got demoted)


    “Get lost.”

    Ice dust flecks the air, and he’s wearing a kung-fu T-shirt. He probably materialized right up here on the peak I spent months climbing.

    Not “he”. They.

    He plunks down next to me, as if the ledge above a thousand-meter drop were just a park bench. “We’re leaving. Please, join us.”

    “I’m not Uploading.” I’d poured my entire existence into perfecting this body. Flesh-meshing, skeletal-proxies, organ-rejuves. Reduce myself to software? No way.


    “You’re not Timothy.”

    “The first time we met, you tried to swaddle me in a flannel froggy blanket. You said, ‘You’re already as stubborn—'”

    “—As your grandfather.” Two hundred years ago, memory’s murky. “Still, no.”

    He vanishes. So much for the ruse of familial feeling.

    Then, Timothy’s voice crackles in my ear: “We won’t leave without you. I’ll make sure of it.”

    I can’t tell if the tears frosting my lashes spring from nostalgia or gratitude.


  68. Sarkani’s Song
    By Amberlee Dawn @talithaarise
    Story Elements: character, theme (tradition, the value of marriage)
    150 words

    Kara’s parents would lock her up if they knew what she was really up to.

    Nannying was bad enough. Girls in her circles didn’t work in subservience to some other family’s whim.

    “You should teach lessons, dear. You’re such a beautiful flautist.”

    “I don’t know why you need a job in the first place, pumpkin. Stamford’s been begging for years to marry you.”

    They had no comprehension of the insipid strangulation she felt with each glance from Stamford.
    She’d dreamed in dragon-tongue. He’d whispered freedom’s song. Stamford couldn’t compare to scaly glories and soaring heights.

    So she escaped to the West End, paying for interviews with terrifying blow-outs at diners whose menus consisted of well-worn socks. Taking notes on napkins and raping naptimes for clandestine conversations with her keyboard.

    His name was Sarkani and she was making his world.

    But golf clubs, evening gowns, and dragons didn’t play nice together…


  69. End of the Line
    By Morgan Vega, @MorganVegaWrite
    Prompts: unhappy socialite; photo; the value of family/marriage
    149 Words

    Dirt hid in the creases of his hands. He slid them down her back, and her mouth parted at the electric tickle. He clutched the cream-colored taffeta above her hips.

    God, what’ll mother say if she sees these smudges?

    He smelled of green things: summer leaves, bushes along the driveway.

    He smelled of summer-welcoming tiger lilies.

    Of mulch and beginnings.

    But that pink evening behind the garden shed was the end.

    A child’s voice silenced their secret kisses. “Anna?”

    Her sister’s eyes swam with judgement, resting on the engagement ring on her trembling finger. “Mother and Father are gonna to hate you.”

    Tall grass whipped her legs, as she chased her sister, half-hidden in the green sea. Her sister’s screams were faster.

    She snuck out that night—but not to runaway with him.

    Before the world went black, she saw his lips in the train’s headlights.


    • Sensory overload. I think this is really good. Here’s why –
      “Tall grass whipped her legs” – most writers (like me) would be talking about watching the sister, or her heart pounding. But you’ve not fallen for any of that. You’ve focused on that one, sharp sensation that captures movement, scene, pace, what the character is wearing and urgency etc, in just five letters.


  70. Title: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing
    Prompts: (Character) Unhappy Socialite, (Conflict) Man vs. Self
    150 Words

    “Feeling down? Little Big Misses Spice-Me-Up Tonic has your needs covered! Are those long socialite dinners sapping your will to live and the life from your eyes? Well, sir and/or madam, the Tonic will pick you up before the pudding course comes!
    If you weren’t addicted to opium and mercury additives before, by King George you will be now!”
    No, that’s terrible. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nobody likes George anymore. Lizzie and her corgis are all the rage now.
    How about this?
    “Dogs or children nipping at your ankles and you just can’t find the leashes? Doesn’t matter! Fall upon them like God’s divine lightning with some Tonic in your reedy little veins!”
    Whoa. Did I drink any of this crap by accident?
    Doesn’t look like it. But it sure does sound good, have you read those advertisements?
    Bottoms up.
    Bottoms down.
    How is it empty already?


    • I think you know ‘exactly’ what you’re doing!
      Can I get an order shipped for next week? I’m sure you’ll be safe, by the way. The Monarchy hardly ever visit this page these days.


  71. The empress of the floating world
    135 words
    character–unhappy socialite
    theme–social progress–future

    From the balcony of her penthouse, the Empress d’Inu looked out at the city below. She studied her spotted hands. Parties were such a bother. Why not just stay home?

    Rajeev stood waiting in the doorway, wearing the red-orange jacket that showed off his dark skin and black hair. Sato had chosen a purple silk kimono.

    They were young enough to be her grandsons. Like the Siamese cats that roamed the garden, they were beautiful luxuries, the envy of all her friends.

    Tonight, she decided, she would wear black and wind a silver chain in her silver braid. The boys were admiring mirrors.

    Who says that money can’t buy love, or the closest thing to it on the Floating World? Perhaps a ring or two, why not. Alas, she had only five fingers on each hand.


  72. Express Train to Tomorrow
    147 words, @pmcolt
    conflict (man vs self, very loosely) and character (unhappy socialite)

    Anna backed away from the platform as Engine 150 rumbled in. Other travelers pushed past, barely noticing the lady in the feathered hat. She briefly considered going home, telling Mother, Father, and the servants that her letter was merely a lark.

    “No. I’ve burned my bridges.” As she stepped toward the passenger door, another woman gripped her shoulder.

    “Anna,” the unkempt stranger said in a feminine voice. “Don’t go. Country life is miserable.”

    “Have we met, Miss?”

    “Anna, I’m you! Don’t ask how, but I’ve traveled back five years to warn you.” Those eyes — that dirt-smudged yet familiar face — it was true! “Farming is backbreaking, laborious work. Don’t go.”

    “Worse than this cage of a city? Peacocking around every socialite ball with other young dilettantes? Marrying some rich old bore for status?” Anna sidestepped the stranger to board the train. “You go your way. I’ll go mine.”


    • Love the way you’ve used Engine 150 as a metaphor for the word count. And I really like your writing. Not sure about the time travel part, but that’s the difficulty with flash. We don’t get the space to set up for genuine suspension of disbelief. Perhaps if the POV had been from that of ‘future’ Anna, desperate to warn “old” Anna, but knowing (from her own memory of the encounter) that she’s doomed to fail?
      I think you should develop this as a full blown short. It’s got massive potential.


      • Credit for the 150 reference goes to our dragon host for choosing such an appropriate photo prompt. My original draft blew way past the 150 word mark, but I really like your idea, and I believe I’m going to steal it.


  73. Time Warped and Weft
    Conflict: man vs self, Theme: Tradition
    Word Count: 146

    I’ve been down these tracks before, weaving and unweaving throughout time. I’m always juggling threads, trying to save the moment, while unraveling another to keep the pattern pure.

    I pick up the stitch, but even as I keep one moment from unraveling— another frays.

    It’s a constant battle to keep time and yet fight its affects.

    Man measures time an a linear pace, but they see only the threads that touch them. They never see the full tapestry of stars, and moments: beginnings wrapped in another’s end.

    Countless generations have keep the pace and fought to keep the pattern true, but it is a losing battle. One cannot keep the whole of time balanced with entropy bearing down on them like a freight train.

    All I can do, is tuck the threads in: splice a thread here, tie a knot there and hope for the best.


    • Really like this. Coming at the prompts from a highly oblique angle – almost abstract. I can imagine this being performed out loud and I can imagine clapping for more.
      One or two typos might let you down with the judges, if they’re feeling grumpy. Hope not, because you’re better than that.


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