Welcome to Friday! Er — it is Friday, isn’t it? I’ve never been terribly good at calendars. If it is some day other than Friday, I hope you will indulge me and write something splendid and/or obnoxious anyway.
Regarding my little calendar problem, by the way: turns out that as of today (not last week!) there’s still ONE WEEK LEFT to toss your name in the hat as a judge for the next round. I’m very nearly literally doing actual cartwheels for joy at those who’ve stepped up so far. But we need a few more. Join us, won’t you? Details here. The deadline’s still Nov 13 at midnight; I’m just counting better today. Thank you!
Last but not least: don’t forget tomorrow is Pyro! Thanks to everyone who turned out last week to sharpen their critique skills on a story. Come again tomorrow! (Note: we could use more stories, too. Please send them here with a note it’s for #Pyro. <500 words, please.)
Judging for their second to last time, it’s Dragon Team Seven up today, which means clever IfeOluwa Nihinlola (by the way, did you read his amazing Spotlight interview about writing in Nigeria?) and the equally clever Nancy Chenier. Check out their judge pages if you’d like to know what they look for in a winning tale.
Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.
* Today’s required word count: 150 words +/- 10 (140 – 160 words, not counting title/byline).
* How to enter: Post your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 140, max 160 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 or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.
* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)
* Winners: will post Monday.
* Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.
AND HERE IS YOUR NOVEL PROMPT:
Winding down our novel prompts (just four more after today!), it’s Gone With the Wind, of course: Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping American Civil War drama starring a proud and rather snotty plantation owner’s daughter who does everything in her power to survive the war and hold on to her family home.
Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters).
* Conflict: man v man, man v society (not gender specific)
* Character (choose at least one): a plantation owner’s daughter, a racketeer, a beautiful woman who never does anything wrong, a noble soldier, a hot-tempered child, a slave whose cruel situation is never acknowledged, a pair of mischief-making twins
* Theme (choose one): desperation, determination, slavery, society/class, women’s rights
* Setting (choose one): the American South during the Civil War, a war-torn city
OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):
“It’s a cinch,” she says, but I’m past listening. She’s always been this way. Even as a kid, she’d pick a pocket, roll a drunk, anything before she’d do a lick of honest work.
“Nobody should have to live in this rubble.” She says it with punch. She’s got my attention even if I know the slop that’s gonna spew out of her vile mouth.
“So, are you in, you gormless bastard?” She slams my arm with the rusted tire iron to drive home her point. “Are ya?”
We’ve done it before. Smash and grab. Food. Cash, anything we could lay our mitts on. This time, a stupid grocer who barely has a pot to piss in. Half the fucking city is in flames and he still thinks he can sell that shit. Like he’s immune from us.
Beyond the choking flames, I can almost see the sky. But that sweet dream is dripping with so much rotting blood.
Character (choose at least one): a racketeer,
Setting: a war-torn city
160 revolutions of the sun
Very strong sense of place. Would definitely steer clear of this woman.
Yeah, she scared me to. Thank God it is flash fiction. You’re in, you’re out, and with luck, you’ll barely skin your literary knees.
BLOOD ON MY HANDS
* * *
Brian S Creek
Setting: A war torn city
* * *
How could I have done it?
A moment of madness? A last resort?
I have blood on my hands. I have blood on my name.
Screams rise up outside the castle walls as the enemy tears through the city, so determined to breach these mighty walls.
They won’t. They can’t.
This castle was constructed to be impregnable, and blessed by four Gods. No man may enter once the barbican is sealed.
Which is the problem. While we few wait out the chaos, safe within the walls, the very people who look up to us are paying the price for our defiance.
So it is with a heavy heart that I order the gates open. It doesn’t take long for things to settle, for the word to get out. The enemy General approaches. I hold up the King’s head, shock still painted across his face.
The general understands and the bloodshed ceases.
We have lost, but we have won.
Sacrifice of the one, even if he is a king, for the many; the King’s general at least has the interests of the people at heart.
Liked the dark twist at the end of this one – for the greater good!
“For the greater good.” 🙂
Chosen: Setting, Theme
A House in the Country
The ivory tower was covered in soot where it stood at the centre of the city. People still looked to it in the morning all the same, watching as the flags were sent fluttering in the wind, ignoring the layer of dirt. The flags were tied to the tower and the plundered ruins around it as much as the remaining people were tied to the city. All those too poor or considered to lowly to be moved to the cities untouched by the blight remained here with no way out.
And today the tower’s inhabitants were moving.
Ragged faces watched the well-dressed and well-fed leave their tower and climb into gilded carriages. Without looking left or right the gilded ones left for their houses in the country.
In the morning faces turned to the stained tower and saw shreds of flags flutter on the flagpoles.
Always the poor are left behind. Condemnation of all societies.
Know Thy Enemy
by Joey To
“You think your crazy king will save you?!”
Does it matter? You just keep whipping me. You lost the last battle so you blame an enemy captive, a mere scout.
And now my so-called friends are at your gates.
Funny how you still trust me with your wine. You think I wouldn’t poison you because I couldn’t get far afterwards. I don’t do it because that lacks finesse. You trust me with your scrolls and brushes too. The only thing you don’t trust me with is your sword.
But I don’t need one. Not anymore. So maybe you have broken me.
Or I’ve learnt patience.
You have me followed when I go to the market. You fed me disinformation. But I was never seen passing it onto the spies. Not your version anyway. You think I’m still loyal to a country which abandons their troops? You know me so well.
Just keep whipping me. It’ll be over soon. For everyone.
Word Count: 160
Conflict: man v man, man v society
Character: a slave
Setting: a war-torn city (well, about to be anyway)
Draw closed the blinds. Cradle the darkness. Choke on the stench; the sweet taste of expectation rots in mouths fillng the room with the foul breath of failure.
Blame burns green at the watery edges of his eyes. Shame burns red in hers.
Pull the white pall, once shawl, round the effrontery of naked flesh. Fold away the trinkets that stain the paper-thin veil of tissue baby blue.
Unable to nurse the burden she has borne. She mourns. He mourns.
Their long-awaited son.
But in a corner their baby shrieks from small yet steel lungs, a battle cry that stretches across land and sea and Time. It carries on the dry grains of desert air; the sleak wing of swift, the gargling notes of the singing waterfall, the grinding wheels of the city. It penetrates the rigid thresholds of schoolroom, boardroom, courtroom, ringing clear its sound:
‘Do not dare to bury me. I am here. I am girl!’
the rights of women
people versus society.
Thank you so much.
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Oops. I seem to have missed an ‘i’ in ‘filling’. Would it be possible to have it put in? Thank you!
Wow. Very moving. Great twist to the end.
Thanks, Steph. Glad that twist came through.
Very strong words.
Thanks for reading.
Very powerful. I love it. Such vivid language wrought in unexpected, colorful ways.
Thanks, Margaret. That means a lot.
Phosphorous sun burned low in the sky, white pain amidst raging colours. A claustrophobic smoke singed the horizon.
The boy waited in suspension, finger nails painful in his palms, muscles sprung back ready to launch. He was dynamite; the fuse alight.
They would come for him. He’d lost control. In a world on fire he’d been the fuel.
His head burst with a cacophony of anguish, desperate families searching, clinging to hope. Fists to his temple, he pounded and pounded. Trying to stop what had already become.
Time faded. Light turned to dark, sound to silence. No one was coming, there was no one left to care.
He lifted his head saw a spark of embers drifting on the wind. Ashes in the sea. Salt streaked his face as he fell to his knees, watched the world burn, the fire extinguish.
Hot tempered child, desperation
Beautiful use of language.
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a slave whose cruel situation is never acknowledged/desperation
As children, they’d really been nothing more than playmates, passing long summer days playing hide and seek. But as Savannah had grown older, she’d grown crueler, taking her cues from her unyielding mother. Ella had suffered in silence because of the one thing Savannah had promised her – she would never be separated from her family.
Savannah would be moving to Ten Magnolias after her wedding, a plantation in Charleston that Ella had heard horrible stories about. Savannah told her mother days ago, “Of course, Ella will come with me! She is a handful but I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Ella didn’t know how far away Charleston was, but knew she would never see her family again. That’s why she was tiptoeing down the stairs in the dark. She ran to the line of trees where her family was waiting. They hid under the weeping willow tree and waited for the signal.
Those final sentences had me holding my breath!
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Thanks for taking the time to read, I appreciate it.
Really pulls you in, I’m waiting for the signal as well.
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Beautiful and evocative.
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In the mold, the bullets were lined up side to side, tip to tip. Like the ships that father told him about. The ones that brought him here. Hardly space to breath, no space to move. The ammunition was identical to the hundreds of others Justin’d made this week alone. The plantation seemed to have a never-ending supply of metal to scrap.
With the setting sun, the makeshift metalworks looked like the fires he’d been using to melt down the remains of Master’s house. Justin was pleased he’d been able to overproduce these bullets for the quartermaster’s weekly pick-up. Not that he would avoid another whipping, but that they would be used by Master’s sons in the field of battle. Would they know their ammunition was made from the ruins of their inheritance? Would they know that each bullet was guaranteed to misfire and destroy the gun because of the strategic changes Justin had made to the mold?
Man vs Man
Interesting little twist! Well done.
Word Count: 160
Prompts: a pair of mischief-making twins/the American South during the Civil War
We approach the barn. Sam and Wiley take positions behind trees, and I tread cat-like up to the open window.
Billy–remember that time we snuck up on Laurie Atkins? She was singin’ away in the bathroom, an’ she’d left the window open a crack. Not enough to see nothin’ we shouldn’t’ve, but enough to drop a field mouse in. Her scream near woke the dead!
I pull my rifle up to the window frame, quiet as can be, and get sights on the captain.
An’ remember when you was seeing Rosie McNeil, an’ I switched places with you that one night so I’d get to taste a girl’s kiss? She never knew it weren’t you. No-one could tell us apart.
I close my eyes.
Then you had to move to New York. Go to college. Marry a Yankee. Become a Yankee. Why, Billy?
A tear strokes my cheek as I squeeze the trigger.
Part of me dies.
Nice job Colin, I enjoyed this piece. I thought it really portrayed the “brother vs brother” aspect of civil war. Great ending.
Such sadness. Really works.
‘I’m not doin’ it.’
‘Oh yes you are.’
‘I’m not Momma! You cain’t make me.’
‘I can indeed make you, Starla, and I will make you. So git ‘n do it!’
‘But I hate this dress, Momma. It’s all poufy and sprickly.’
‘It’s what the Master wants, Starla. He chose it just special’ for you. You’re a lucky girl! He could’a’ picked any of the other girls, but he picked you. My gorgeous little starshine.’
‘Why you cryin’ Momma? I don’t want him to ‘of picked me. He’s an old creep and I hate him.’
‘Starla! For God’s sake child, you must never…Oh my lord. We’ll wind up punished if you don’t behave and sing as he asks.’
‘I’m tellin’ you Momma. I AIN’T GONNA SING.’
‘Now you listen to me, and you listen good. You will sing, and you will smile. Or you’ll be as dead as your big sister. I cain’t lose you both.’
Wonderful use of dialogue. Great story. That last line is so powerful!
conflict–man v. society
Your people took our world, and now you say I’m free to go?
But Miz Charlotte, I’ve always lived here, same as you. Remember I was your birthday present, your pet Rosie. You taught me to read, didn’t you?
My people weren’t very smart, we didn’t have computers. All we knew were plants and animals, and your plants wouldn’t grow in our soil. My people were happy to help. What did we know? We didn’t know about property or class. We didn’t know what exploited means. You taught me that word, Miz Charlotte. You told me about the Resistance.
The war is over, Miz Charlotte. It’s a different world, now. Just look at the parade of broken people on the road, all heading somewhere, with nowhere to go. Maybe some of them will stop here, ask for a drink of water. Maybe they’ll stay here, help us fix the place up. We’ll fix them, too, Miz Charlotte. We’ll welcome them home.
Despite the issue of ownership, the genuine caring relationship between Rosie and Charlotte shines through. Beautifully done.
Thank you. I really appreciate that.
‘all heading somewhere, with nowhere to go’ is a beaut line. Great piece.
Thank you so much.
The Whipping Song
Each slash across his back in the morning light was obscured with sweet birds chirping and a band playing a John Philip Sousa march that his screams joined with cymbal like precision. Each whip mark like a sentence scratched out with a pencil. His torso was a novel abandoned. A story blotted out. A history ignored. The lines, one after another, formed on his broken body. And some had healed rising from their torn page like the pulse of a love letter as a firm hard destruction played out all around him.
But in his heart were dreams. A place as lucid as the sky doting over bleeding summer Maples tucked into beds of manicured lawns.
At night she’d touch his wounds, drag her fingers along his back as if the braille of angels and she’d carefully read his letter to her. She felt his dreams rising like a phoenix from his pain. The perfect structure of his love ballad.
The American South during the Civil War/Slavery
Thanks for taking the time and being generous enough to leave a kind comment.
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Great writing. This is such a painful and beautiful story.
Thank you for this comment and all your past comments. It makes me feel good.
Love the imagery…His torso was a novel abandoned. Fantastic.
Gorgeous imagery. Love these lines in particular: “His torso was a novel abandoned. A story blotted out. A history ignored. The lines, one after another, formed on his broken body.” Wow.
Word Count: 160
Story Elements: Character (a plantation owner’s daughter)/Theme (slavery)
A Cage of Your Own Making
The lie tangles through her words like twisted roots that cage her beneath them.
“I am free,” she murmurs to the servant. He does not blink.
The silence falls heavy around her, blanketing the mahogany mantelpieces, the damask curtains, the silk tapestries.
His dark eyes in a darker face accuse without words.
“I am free,” she whispers.
She is the darling of society, the queen of southern fashion; all the accouterments she’s considered as building blocks to success are merely links in a chain that bind her, imprisoned, behind a lie. Her life rears up in front of her like a tomb; pristine marble and ornate carvings decorate the outside, dust and dry bones litter the interior.
“I am free,” she mouths, but she no longer believes it.
At last, he speaks. “I did not construct the prison in which I am bound.” When he leaves, his accusation lingers, unspoken. This cage is of your own making.
All beautiful. But I especially love “The silence falls heavy around her, blanketing the mahogany mantelpieces, the damask curtains, the silk tapestries.”
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Gorgeously done, as usual. Love the symmetry in the construction as a good contrast against the different elements.
The Whirlwind of War
The war had moved on, at least for the time being, but the city was already torn in too many ways. It was still close enough for its rumble to be heard, though, and the inhabitants remained wary of coming out into the open to deal with the scars.
For this had been a war that had brought into the open a division that had lain dormant for centuries, maybe even a millennium or more. Yet the ancient ways had returned and the captured had become enslaved, forced to work for the side to which they were opposed.
Now, as Phillip sat in the cellar of what had once been his home he wondered what the aftermath would bring. He knew any number of people he wanted to take revenge on, and more that might want to end him.
Perhaps it would be better to leave, he thought, to follow the whirlwind forever, now that it owned his soul.
Setting: A War-Torn City and Theme: Slavery
Elements: a pair of mischief-making twins, man vs. man
“There’s no point in panicking,” Justin said.
“It’s less than two months before Christmas and some some butthead has ruined the toys!”
“It’s just paint.”
“Just paint? Someone must have set off a hundred paint bombs in here! Everything is multi-coloured!”
“So tell the head of marketing to push tie-dye this year,” Justin said.
“When I find out who did this…”
“Won’t their names be on your magic naughty list?” Santa’s list wasn’t restricted to children. Adults only stopped receiving gifts if they stopped believing.
Santa whipped the list out of his pocket. It was the size of a small notebook with a single page. “Willy and Wally,” he said, and flipped to the page.
“Naughty! Naughty! Naughty!” the notebook howled. “WEE OOO WEE OOO!”
“There’s only one way to solve this,” Santa said.
“Getting them to paint over their mess?”
“No, Justin. The sweet flavour of revenge.”
And that’s why there was no Christmas that year.
Sounds a bit severe, Holly, or – dare I say? -Draconian. Thanks for reminding me of the proximity of the festive season… or was that your evil twin?
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I am the evil twin!
Noooooooooooo! (Actually, brilliant delivery! – if you’ll pardon the pun.)
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Puns never need to be pardoned. 😀
Some people don’t have the sense God gave a mule. Miz Scarlett, Mistah Rhett. Even Mistah Ashley.
If it weren’t for me, they’d have starved, the lot of them.
“Mammy, got any more biscuits?”
“Mammy, can you get the baby to sleep?”
“Mammy, can you make me a dress out of the parlor drapes?”
No wonder they’ve been having this war over keeping black folk waiting on them hand and foot.
“How would white folks live without us?” Prissy asked me the other day. “Miz Melanie’s too weak to boil water for tea.”
“I can’t imagine. Somehow, they get along up north.”
“They must be smarter up north,” Prissy said.
“Or they must be mighty hungry,” I told her. “And Lord only knows what those Yankees wear. It takes three women to keep Miz Scarlett dressed.”
If we ever get free, when she asks me for something’ I’m gonna say,
“Frankly, Miz Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”
A slave whose situation is never acknowledged
man v. man
Ha, I really enjoyed that ending!
The army was done with him. Her son was coming home and, judging from his letters, looking forward to some home cooking. Shaking the quilt from his bedroom window, she looked down across the orchard and decided to make a homecoming pie.
After slowly climbing the ladder’s rungs, her confidence grew, but then she overreached, dislodging the balancing bowlful of cherries. Attempting to catch it, she toppled sideways, clutching frantically at branches to steady herself.
She fell awkwardly, trapped under the heavy ladder. Her laboured breathing caused her vision to flicker, but she focused on the glistening drops of moisture decorating the foliage above, forcing herself to remain conscious, determined to see her son again.
A rumbling cart approached, her son was home. He called out, but her reply was whispered. A trickle of moisture ran from her mouth. She shivered, exhaling her final breath, as failing sight plunged her into darkness. She quietly slipped away before he found her.
Title: A Better Day
Setting: A War-Torn City
Word Count: 159
“It’s almost the 21st century, goddammit,” I say, pulling my tattered blanket close to me. “Shouldn’t we be beyond all this by now?”
A shell, or something like it, goes off down the street. The silence that follows is worse than any scream. There could be a family, decades of history, in that space.
My brother and cousin set up his game of dominoes. Again. That’s all they do now, quietly play dominoes and slowly waste away. In their glazed eyes, I see a graveyard. Me, I can at least linger and stare at the horizon, hoping against hope that one day I’ll see the sun rise and not dread the thought of another day.
In the bedroom, I lean down next to my sunny-haired wife. Stolen meds ring around her bed like roses around a coffin. Her breath is weak and low. Somewhere else in the world, somebody is having a bad day because they stubbed their toe.
Nice work. To me that last sentence really puts the rest of the story in perspective.
“No man should be enslaved or subjugated to the will of another. By god it has to end!”
Words to live by. Words to die by. Words to kill by.
They were the words that Franklin had spoken with conviction to his father the night before he joined the union army. Franklin had lived those words with nobility. He executed those ideals with fury.
Franklin held his ground at Shiloh and Mossy Creek as men fell to bullet and bayonet all around him. Franklin burned away the ideology of slavery and injustice with every plantation he put to the torch.
As his unit marched away from the burning house, Franklin noticed a group of former slaves huddled under a Sycamore tree.
“I’ve done right, they’re free now.”
Free to wander the war-ravaged countryside in search of food and shelter. Free to hide from those who still held allegiance to the south and the old ways.
Freedom always has a price.
Characters: noble soldier/slaves whose cruel situation is never acknowledged (their new situation that is) Setting: the American South during the Civil War
The tendrils twirl tenaciously up the yellow marble siding of Narcissus.
Mistress Rebel Worthy stirs in her bed.
“You gotta get up, Miss Rebel. Master Lucius Callender is approaching.”
She sinks more deeply into the cradled comfort of the bed she rarely leaves these days.
“Ah, Miss, times a flying. Your Daddy’s gonna whip me if I don’t get you ready.”
She knows her daddy is as soft and wrinkled as cotton. And she knows I threw her daddy’s buggy whip into the river years ago. I was such a stupid little Beulah.
“Honey,” I say, stroking her matted apple-red hair. “Please.”
One eye opens slowly like the first blooming of a purple iris.
“It won’t be so bad.” I say. “Why, I’ve heard that he was quite a handsome man… in his time.”
“Oh, Selina, he’s older than my daddy. How could I ever be with him?”
“Like we women have always done, Miss. Eyes shut; dreams alive.”
Character: a plantation owner’s daughter, a slave whose cruel situation is never acknowledged
Theme: women’s rights
160 reasons not to
To be or not to be
I want to slap her face like the doctor slapped her bottom when she refused to take her first breath. My beautiful, spirited daughter has always been contrary. Some says she takes after me, now that would make me proud, but she’s Josie through and through. She has the same petulant stare. I look at the photo, wondering where the women in this family found their fighting spirit.
Lowering my eyes I curse myself, as a glint of a smile hovers over her lips. She may have won the first battle but not the war. She will not leave this house to follow the drum. No daughter of mine will train to bandage soldiers’ wounds, listen to them calling for their mothers. She will embroider, sip iced tea and chat idly with her sisters. Although the blood of Robert E. Lee flows through her, I have to find a way to defeat the wiles of generations of strong southern belles.
I love the opening.
That first line is wonderful–great story!
Great opening line.
Elements: theme (desperation), setting (war-torn city)
“I have nothing,” said Douglas, thinking of his family, hungry, suffering.
“On the contrary,” said Pearson Mk-One. “You have a very valuable asset.”
A senior droid walked past with his meta-wife, they paused to study Douglas.
“Told you,” said Pearson. “You’re lucky. Organic is very ‘in’ at the moment. Droids demand realism. You can name your price. Do you need time to think it over?”
No. Douglas already knew what to ask for … passes that would take his family beyond the barricades, out of the wrecked city.
“And of course you will receive the appropriate synthetic replacement,” said Pearson. “When would you like to proceed?”
“Now,” said Douglas with sudden determination.
When he came round, he saw a droid on the opposite bed stroking newly acquired skin.
Mirroring him, Douglas lightly touched his own silicon-covered arm. Was repulsed. Realisation dawned.
“Four permits, as agreed,” said Pearson.
Douglas took three. And walked out, a man alone.
Love the mirroring: droid looks at its arm; protagonist his. Sad ending.
“Organic is in.”
What a great concept. Like when the Borg Queen gives Data real skin.
Thank you, although ashamed to say I had to google your reference! My daughter would’ve got it but I was a fan of the original tv series complete with dodgy sets and props.
Keeping Up Appearances
Elements: woman v. society, a plantation owner’s daughter, a noble soldier, desperation, determination, women’s rights, the American South during the Civil War
“WELL, now, ah am SURE that ah don’t know WHAT you’re talkin’ about, my deah father would never allow such a thing here at Irongates.”
The Sergeant looked unconvinced; his hand rested on the pommel of his sword and his eyes roved around the room. “Very well ma’am, good to know the plantation is in his capable hands.” She knew he didn’t believe one word, it made no matter.
“Sergeant, do stop by sometime again, won’t you? We’d be delighted.” He only nodded in acknowledgement, then motioned his men out.
Hearing Emmy sliding the bolt behind them, she could finally relax. Another peril met and defeated. Just then a thumping from upstairs; it would be her father, wanting his lunch. She daren’t let any of the servants feed him, with his raving so wild and unaccountable. The weight of it curved her shoulders as she pulled an apron over her dress and went to fetch the bowl.
Daughter Dark Heart
Galina crosses the circle of stakes and skulls, one post lacking its resident. Forest Grandmother’s door shifts as the hut jumps, atop kicking legs.
“Turn your back to the forest, your front to me,” the girl whispers. The entrance before her, Galina raps; sharp. The door opens.
“Alone? Come close, to see.” A bony figure stoops before flames, face shadowed.
“You lose your way, perhaps? No matter. You see, I think? My many?”
Galina nods as the crone turns.
“My hut, it likes you. You speak a little?”
“Some words were passed.”
“Truth,” the woman says, displaying blackened teeth. “It admits you. As is, must be. So, you tell me! A tale! Tomorrow, I eat. Today, I hunger for words.”
“My story is known,” Galina says, watching the older woman.
“Marinka lazes,” she responds, gesturing towards an unlit corner. “More help, I need. Where there is willing.”
“You call again, daughter; dark heart,” Yaga says. “When need arises.”
Man v Man
(A hint of) Determination
Love Baba Yaga stories: ‘Grandmother’s door shifts as the hut jumps, atop kicking legs.’ Delicious!
Sweet Savannah Belles
“My dear,” she begins, her taffy words stretching out, “Bless your heart, this has been a…lovely tea service.”
Her mouth turns up in a brittle candy pink smile, a glimmer of joyful disdain from her eyes and the wrinkle of her nose. She is endlessly polite in her careful destruction.
“But the reality is that you’ll just never be one of our kind of people,” she continues, touching a hand to her pearls.
“That’s most assuredly true,” I say with my own smile, shining and genuine.
She leans back a little, surprised, maybe even disappointed I’m not upset at being denied entry to her world.
“I think you’re a real turd, Bunny Mitchell, and I put laxatives in your tea, so you have yourself a real SWELL afternoon,” I tell her still smiling from ear to ear before I stand, drop a curtsey and then moonwalk out of the room.
woman v woman, society/class
Such wit and style–love this character!
Man vs. Society
Ma got killed today. No one called the cops, cuz why? Everyone knew who ran things ‘round these parts. Didn’t even bother with hoods, like they did on the tee-vee. It had been a long time since anyone here paid attention to the Eighteenth, and the US Army wasn’t keen on opening a can of worms, not when every kid got an assault rifle as soon as she could lift it. Every white kid, anyway.
Of course I wanted to leave, and not just cuz Ma was dead. Without a penny to my name, and this chip under my skin, there wasn’t a point. Least it was summer, and curfew was late. They laughed when they said it, No Darkies After Dark, but it wasn’t a joke. Walked round the park, hands out, and scurried to The Home when the first badge started following me.
They said Lincoln had freed the slaves, but he musta forgotten some.
Nice piece reflective of the time. You might want to look at the book, “Sundown Towns,” which provides some historical examples that might inspire more work like this.
Oh, this rings so horribly true. Brilliant last line.
Character: a plantation owner’s daughter
[No Twitter Handle]
The pesticide bill was huge—thousands. “You had every cicada on the plantation killed? Why, Father?”
He seemed smaller now, his eyes pleading for understanding. “Daughter, your mother always wanted to visit her cool childhood home and feel the seasons again. I ignored her wishes, blaming my busy schedule. Now she’s dying. So I’ll make our plantation feel like her Wisconsin home. The air conditioner blasting, logs in the fireplaces, and those southern pests silenced. Their buzzing announces steamy summers. Snow is silence, so she’ll enjoy silence as she departs.”
Father returned to mother while I stepped onto the porch. Father was losing his mind, I thought. The pesticide bill probably cost a fine funeral.
It was peaceful on the porch with the cicada chorus silenced. He was right: their racket signified heat, as though they were tiny furnaces collectively burning the entire South.
In the quiet dusk I studied by hands. A snowflake gently floated to my palm.
by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
Story Elements: Theme (desperation), Setting (a war-torn city)
Word count: 160
The blitz began anew. The corner offered cold comfort, though Colette realized it was only a wounded facade. Safety was an illusion held desperately despite the destruction that littered the remnants of what she once had called her life. Another strike would shatter the final vestige of hope she’d manage to cling to all these long years.
Someone once said, “War is Hell.” He was wrong. Hell is eternal. War will end. There will be a victor. And there will be a vanquished.
The barrage ended. The room fell silent. Peter had finally put away his fists.
“I’m heading to bed. I’ll be waiting.”
“I just need to clean up.”
Colette swept up the broken dishes, her grandmother’s wedding china. She found a few drams of will in the bottom of his whiskey glass. Drinking it felt like victory. She took one last look at the battlefield, turned on all four burners, and joined the man she loved.
Oh, wow. Powerful.
by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
Story Elements: Character (a beautiful woman who never does anything wrong), Theme (determination)
Word count: 158
The spread would have made Martha Stewart jealous. The whiteware stood in satisfying contrast to the tablecloth of Almost Aqua, purloined on sale at Macy’s. The stemware positively sparkled, polished by seemingly indefatigable hands which would accept nary a spot. Trays of canapés were scattered strategically, an awaiting scavenger hunt for gourmets. The basement stood ready, replete with the latest age-appropriate DVDs. (And the booze locked away.) The soufflé would be out of the oven soon, with the pineapple upside-down cake following shortly. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons flowed through the rooms, caressing floors vacuumed an hour ago, twice.
Her guests would be impressed. They always were.
“How you manage to do all this, raise three three kids, volunteer at the school, and maintain your medical practice is beyond me,” went the common refrain.
Yes, perfection. All of it.
Even the cuts on her thighs, safely hidden beneath the perky red knee-length dress, were drawn in perfectly parallel lines.
Yes. Eerily true. Yes.
You Can Get the Staff
Harvey drew the curtains shut as an explosion rocked through the once leafy suburb.
“Sorry Celia, the view is a bit distasteful right now.”
Celia laughed. “Harvey dear, you’re so sensitive.”
She looked around the room for the umpteenth time. “Where is Constance?” I’m surely dying from this lack of tea.” Her shoulders slumped. “It’s just not good enough.”
George – Celia’s father – looked up from his newspaper. “He’s gone for more water. We’re out again.”
Half a mile away Constant-101 lay on No-Man’s Bridge beside a pale of water. He hadn’t spilt a drop. He looked for his legs grateful his emotion chips had been deactivated; one was in a tree beneath the bridge and the other was floating beneath him like a surreal Pooh stick.
George nervously looked at his watch – Constant-101’s non-appearance for tiffin was worrying. He flicked through the paper for the Robo-Auction advert. It was time to buy another butler.
A war torn city – a slave who’s cruel situation is never acknowledged.
Spot-on social commentary. i feel so sad for Constant-101. Great story!
The path to salvation
The sun beats down on me, as unforgiving as Masters whip. My sweat drips onto the dark red path. I lay the next brick, slotting it into place. Only three more to go. I flatten out the mortar with my quivering hand. It must be perfect. This path is my legacy. I have built it to be as unbreakable as my spirit.
One by one the gaps are filled. As the last brick slots into place I stand, stretching out my back with a groan.
I see Master and his wife walking down the path. His expression is a mix of admiration and frustration. He underestimated me. As he approaches I search for any sign of appreciation, no matter how small. Instead he turns to his wife and says, “What do you think?”
She huffs, “I’d have preferred it in grey.”
The Master smiles his wicked smile, “You heard her. Rip it up and do it again.”
Themes: a slave whose cruel situation is never acknowledged, determination
An Accident at Work Leads to Happy Staff But Some Productivity Issues
Jemima was flustered. “I am quite flustered,” she said (she wasn’t one for flustering without telling people).
“Oh dear, Jemmy!” said her mother. “Whatever is the matter?”
“It is business ma-ma. Not for you to worry about,” said Jemima. “Where’s father?”
“He’s in the plantation. There’s been some sort of incident over night.”
“I think that’s what he said. How did you know?”
“I’ve just seen the workers coming up from the town in dribs and drabs. They all seem – happy.” said Jemima. “Prevailing wind last night was over the town.”
Jemima’s mother nodded, but looked non-plussed.
“But why are you being flustered my dear?”
Jemima had almost forgotten the flustering. “Rico is coming for his supply at lunch time – and we’ve inadvertently given it to our workers.”
After lunch Rico became briefly flustered too before getting baseball bat happy.
It proved a sad day for the Mary Jane Plantation; although their staff seemed gloriously oblivious.
A plantation owner’s daughter – a racketeer.
HA! That sort of plantation! Love that opening para, AJ, not to mention ‘baseball bat happy’. (‘gloriously oblivious’ = ‘unflustered’?)
[ If only I had been in town – I might have been mellow enough not to point out that it should be ‘overnight’ 😀 ]
Hah! You have a way with titles 😀
The Devil’s Racketeer
“Hey Yankee! You looking to go home? Why don’t you just come on over and get in the wagon, I’ll take you away from this hell!”
It was an offer the soldier couldn’t refuse. Tired and wanting to escape the slaughter of the battlefield he climbed into the wagon and sat on the floor.
“Now y’all get nice and comfortable back there,” the driver continued. “And don’t worry none, I’ll get you someplace safe.”
The soldier closed his eyes and fell asleep. When he awoke a short time later, the wagon was filled with men. Rebs and Yanks sat side by side, all staring through each other, none uttering a word. As the soldier scanned the lifeless faces sitting around him he recognized the confederate soldier he’d killed.
Hades grinned from ear to ear as the wagon vanished in a wisp of fog. It was easy to turn a profit with so many lost souls on the battlefield.
Setting: the American South during the Civil War
I like this. Great, sad imagery.
Conflict: man v man
Character: a pair of mischief-making twins
‘It’s simple, Simon’
Jake’s twin brother never did have a lick of sense. ‘Lookit, tain’t no myst’ry. Tomorrow be market day. We take us a walk to the road. You wait on The Pieman comin’ back frum the fayre and get him to climb down frum his wagon. I creep up, put a sack over his head then steal his takin’s.’
Waking from a doze, Simon saw a man sitting on a wagon.
‘You The Pieman?’
The stranger pointed to the sign: “Pete’s Pies”.
‘Caint ya read?’
‘Now why don’t that surprise me none? You hungry, son?’
‘Ain’t hardly never without hunger, Momma says.’
‘Ma bakery’s down the road a spell. Come give me a hand unloadin’, you kin he’p yerself to one of ma pies.
Heading home, fuller than a tick on a cow’s belly, Simon remembered Jake and his scheme.
‘Reckon I’m in fer a whuppin’… Sure wuz worth it though! I’m as happy as a puppy with two peckers!’
Paid as a gambling debt to this monster by her own father, alongside a pair of bullocks, she was now a slave, a wife, a punching bag.
He had beaten her with his belt today, then slapped and kicked her till she had almost stopped breathing.
The window in her room stood open. He was getting careless. The cold night air beckoned her.
She could hear him in the other room, drinking and cursing. It would be so easy to stack a couple of utensils and jump out. She smiled at the thought, even as she lay in a pool of blood.
Bare feet hitting the cold tarmac, her heart beating so fast—she ran.
Her cotton saree kept catching in her feet. But light as air she stumbled on.
The next morning he found her huddled in a corner of the room, a smile on her face—cold and stiff.
She had finally escaped.
A slave wife/ desperation/ women’s right (no rights at all)/ woman vs man
Interesting take on escaping. Nicely done though, I liked it.
Thankyou for reading. I’m glad you liked it. 😊
Muted Medieval Equity
“Every time you visit, I’m undone.”
“I don’t want you to be bewitched. I want to speak at the Table! And do stop stroking my ear–you know I despise it.”
“But I love the way it curves up into a point.”
“Sir, the counsel? Please, be my escort?”
“Oh, don’t put your coat on. Although you’re ravishing in scarlet, the more ivory skin to espy, the better.”
“Now you are just being vulgar.”
“Have I ever mentioned I love your rosebud lips?”
“Stop stalling! My poetry is what you love, and that is all. Now I’m out of patience.”
“I don’t believe it. You could never be anything less than perfect.”
“Please, I must rest my case. We need justice.”
“Your other striking virtues will cause the knights to drool more than your lovely logic.”
“What’s the point of being fae if my womanhood leaves me unheard?”
“Yet I ask, why be the Enchantress, unless to enchant us?”
Word Count: 159
Character: a beautiful woman who never does anything wrong
Theme: women’s rights (and pretty much all the other themes)
Man versus society
i. In a street of 100 families, 70 families are living below the poverty line. What percentage of those families live on, or above, the poverty line?
ii. 1 family in every 3, on this, a typical street, will have at least 1 child whose ambitions far exceed the finances required by their family to access Further Education. Express this tragedy as a fraction.
iii. Taking into consideration your answer to the previous question, how many mothers (and on occasions fathers) are forced to compromise their self worth for value?
iv. If 1 of the above mentioned children eventually makes it into Further Education, and also graduates, how much student debt will they have accumulated?
v. Choose from the symbols below. Which one most accurately describes how long it will take to pay off this student’s debt:
vi. What mathematical symbol displays that no parity has been found?
c. was an attempt at the infinity symbol! Ah well!
I feel your pain! I once used a mathematical symbol in some text (Pi, I think), and it froze up the whole site. Seems nobody programmed for it. On a Mac for infinity, you press Option, 5.
Thanks for that tip. I am hopeless with technology. Realised too late cut and paste would have sufficed! Tinkering about with this story format which I have yet to perfect!
Well, this just makes me want to weep. Because it’s not exactly fiction, is it?
No, you’re right. It is so very depressing (albeit the statistics are based solely on my pessimism rather than on hard facts.) Thanks for reading!
Character: A plantation owner’s daughter, A noble soldier
Setting: The American South during the Civil War (and I used the picture)
A soldier is brave and daring; yet fear and intimidation swept through him as he waited under the limbs of the third oak.
“I didn’t think you’d come.” She stood behind him, her voice lilting through the night air.
Noah turned. “I shouldn’t be here.”
“Generals never sleep.”
Annie touched his cheek. “He’s retired. Daddy sleeps when he’s had one too many glasses of brandy.”
“You got him drunk? And generals never retire.”
“I needed to see you.”
“I can’t stay.” He wrapped her in his arms. “We’re camped down the road.”
“I wish we didn’t have to hide.”
“Me, too.” Noah kissed Annie’s cheek and stepped away. “Remember our promise?”
They heard footsteps.
“Yankee!” he yelled as he saw the soldier.
One shot to save his daughter. The General turned toward the house.
“I promise to love you forever.” Tears fell. “I promise I’ll never love another.” A second shot broke her father’s heart.
Setting – American South at the end of the Civil War; Theme: Desperation
Twining and twisting the branches of the stately oaks twined together forming an archway to the grounds of the damned. That’s how the papers described the twin oaks on the estate of Captain Christian Hays.
The oaks hand been planted on either side of the walkway and carefully groomed so that their branches twined, forming an arch that led to the mansion of Twining Oaks.
They had stood as silent protectors for generations until that fateful night, as the civil war was ended- when they were put to a far darker purpose: to serve as the platform to hang Captain Hays’s wife and daughters – retribution for his taking the side of the north.
They say the women were brave, but against so many, they had no hope, but when the would be hangmen loosed the steeds and left the women to hang – the trees took them up, and bore them safely away.
The men were not so lucky.
Under the Magnolia Tree, I’ll Keep Your Secret
“You can’t judge me!”
She screamed it loud enough to wake the dead. If only they’d wanted to rise.
I crossed one foot over the other, cutting off the kitchen door.
“Has your heart bled with mine?” She pressed the blade to her chest. “Would you break your bones to know my pain?”
Bubbles of spit blew from her mouth; they popped at the corners as she raked in breath. She never could be wrong.
“I love you, but I need you to listen.”
She dissolved to the floor, her dress staining red where she hugged the knife.
“Give it here.” I crouched.
Sobs decayed into hiccups. Her eyes, Georgia blue, scratched at my face.
“He was in her arms. I couldn’t live with that.”
I snagged her wrist and peeled her grip free.
“Of course you couldn’t.”
I kissed her.
“Now, let’s clean you up.”
Elements: Desperation & A beautiful woman who never does anything wrong
The title is as beautiful as the rest of the story.
Eek! (Great, as usual)
152 words, @pmcolt
conflict: man v man
character: a plantation owner’s daughter
From the day of her débutante ball, there was war in the hillsides of Darlington county. The battlefield was upper crust bachelordom; the prize, Estella.
Even when we were children, I knew she was special. With her Gram’s name, her mama’s land, and her daddy’s fortune, the man to claim her heart would rule the country club set.
All the belles were dressed in the colors of the season. Gold, scarlet, persimmon; they danced and swirled like the leaves in the wind beneath the spreading oak trees, before the white columns and black shutters of Starmont plantation.
Estella smiled politely at my lone rival, then winked in my direction. The battleground had been washed clean by the tears of the also-rans. With that alluring bat of her eyelashes, I was certain of my victory.
I never noticed her dark horse suitor, the waiter with the hors d’oeuvres tray, standing next to me.
The opening paragraph sets the stage so well. The closing is killer funny.
Nicely done. Love this line: Gold, scarlet, persimmon; they danced and swirled like the leaves in the wind beneath the spreading oak trees – such a wonderful image!
Setting: a war-torn city
In 1939, UK prison inmates with less than three months left to serve were released. They soon appreciated the opportunities WWII presented. Within weeks of rationing being introduced, spivs were selling everything they could lay their hands on at inflated prices.
During the blitz, racketeers would obtain an ARP warden’s helmet and armband, and break into shops; the public were duty-bound to help load up a car, believing that the goods were being removed for safekeeping. Other villains drove to bombed business premises to find the safe. Some even used vehicles disguised as ambulances for getaways.
Anyone whose home had been destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing received £500 compensation. One fraudster claimed to have been “bombed out” nineteen times in a five-month period before he was caught.
Young men volunteering for armed service led to a reduced police force. Petrol shortages applied to police cars like everyone else and pursuits during the blackout were well-nigh impossible.
Home Fires Burning
Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
Character: Noble Soldier
Theme: Desperation / Determination
Home is where the heart is. That’s what they say, at least.
Never has a sight been so welcome as the house before me. I am home. I have survived years of war, of suffering, of agony. I have survived the end of innocence.
As I walk down the familiar path, the time-worn bricks covering what used to be gravel, and before that, dirt, I think of my father. My grandfather. His father. And generations back, all of us fighting. Some of us coming home.
My knees buckle and I sink to the ground, kissing it, thanking it for one more day on earth, one more day with you.
Then I see you, between the columns, your face turning towards me, your body in the arms of another man.
And I know it’s true, what they say. You can’t go home again.
I raise my gun.
Really liked the twist at the end! Nice work Margaret.
WICKED good ending.
Oh, thanks. The pacifist in me is still shaking my head at myself, but, well, I followed the story.
Oh! I was not expecting that. A moving story that becomes completely heartbreaking.
‘You can’t go home again.’ So powerful.