Tag Archive | Geoff Le Pard

Fire&Ice Sol 15/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! As if the latest round of Fire&Ice winners weren’t exciting enough, did you know it’s also Doctor Who Day, Fibonacci Day, Eat a Cranberry Day, and National Espresso Day? It’s also NaNo Day 23 (38,341 words, or whatever beautiful number of words you’ve written). Wherever this Monday finds you—whether snacking on cranberries or not—here’s to another sunrise, and another day conquering the white page together. We’re glad, as ever, you’re here.

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 15’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King:  I am sad that this is the last time I get to judge. Thanks to the majestic Ice and Fire dragons for their faith and trust in us, and for all the work it has taken to bring this magical place back. Thanks also to the folk behind the scenes who help to get the stories to judges each week. Much gratitude to Steph who shares my timezone, has a great work ethic and has impeccable taste in great storytelling. As writers, you did wonders with the prompt this week, I enjoyed every story and the ones I picked tended to just stand out in some small way. Some quick mentions: Betsy Streeter‘s “Untitledfor the image of grasshoppers and great use of dialogue. Tamara Shoemaker‘s “Soul’s March,” for the creepy and unsettling feeling. Maggie Duncan‘s “Fix Our Eyes Not on What is Seen” for the concise and very effective structure.


Stephanie Ellis: November already and my last time as a judge! Seeing Flash! Friday come back has been wonderful, even though the past few weeks have seen me somewhat absent for a variety of reasons; that being said, I’d like to thank Deb and Rebekah for inviting me to take part, it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with them and Mark. The quality of submissions was excellent, as always, and this week I found the majority of my choices went to those I regarded as a story, rather than an introspective or ‘scene’ piece. I needed to engage with the characters and the stories chosen allowed me to do that. In addition to those on the rostrum, I’d like to mention a couple of other stories. Laurence D‘s “King of the Hillwith its termites having distinct human speech and accents, and Tinman‘s “Transfer of Power,” with its finger pointing to the future destruction of mankind via a growing army of mutant insects, were both great fun and hugely original.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Museum of Nobodies” by Arvind Iyer

MK: It’s a reverse mirror to the superficial and branded world of influencers. I loved how the story took me to other places, transporting me, almost by word-teleportation – handy we can travel like this with stories when we can’t go physically.

SE: In these days of celebrity status and global powers, us lesser mortals often feel unseen and disregarded and this writing recognises that fact, and in doing so, it also reminds us we are somebody and that there are millions like us.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Geoff LePard

MK: It’s approaching panto season in the UK so while it probably wasn’t the author’s intention, I loved the thought of this missing eccentric British tradition somehow living on as a termite-mound genie in a story.

SE: A hugely entertaining story; sometimes we just need that touch of humour in our lives and I thought this was perfect. A termite genie granting the wish that would be the downfall of Terrance and Susan.

These Days by Karl Russell

MK: I loved the world-building in this one. The global nature of it. Those amazing images of buildings being like the termite mounds. The great name-dropping of Scorsese, London, Manhattan, Tokyo and Layla booming across the post-apocalyptic landscape. 

SE: A ghost with no one to haunt, such a sad thought. Bleak description of a post-apocalyptic world which we could head towards, if we’re not careful. Although maybe, we are already ghosts haunting ourselves.

RUNNER UP

The Land Remembers”  by Voima Oy

MK: This is a highly creative take on the prompt. It appealed to me in several ways. It was unique, it included a familiar tale of ‘progress’ at the expense of nature, it included wonderful images: At night, they gave off a strange glow, like cities at night.” It reminded me of the film, Avatar, only much, much better. James Cameron needs to take notes from this story.

SE: There is magic in our planet: our ancestors have often mentioned hidden energies or forces beneath our soil which affect us and our lives. This story gives this ancient magic a sci-fi feel, as the planet draws up its defences against the developers. Beautifully written.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Notes On a Life Lived

MK – I’m a sucker for an intriguing title, so this drew me in. Then the story grabbed me tightly from the opening and didn’t let go He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.”  In the middle, we have this amazing image, “We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.” 

There is a mastery of storytelling and structure and pacing, yes, it’s showcasing in a microscopic space, just what flash fiction can do. And that ending, what a life. It makes you think and be thankful.

SEThis is a story which must resonate with many of us, as grandparents get older and we drift apart, moving on with our busy lives, knowing they are still there in the background – until they’re not – and we realise we have failed to make time for them, to listen to their stories, thinking our own so much better. This delicate showing of ‘the life lived’ at the end is poignant, an emotional gut punch to those left behind. If only they’d talked. An imaginative take on an image whose markers called to mind those rows of white headstones in a war grave cemetery. Wonderful writing.

Congratulations on your back-to-back win, Arcane! Here’s your winning story:

Notes On a Life Lived

He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.

Nightfall, he, Grandmother and I would sit within the perfume of the plum orchard. Small words uttered as he split purple flesh with his blade, revealing the sweetest yellow flesh.

As the seasons faded into years I returned less to the cottage, till one day I never did.

When she died he moved into the city. Living in a small terraced house with dirty windows. Each time I visited, he would seem smaller again, as if every breath I took stole directly from him.

Seasons faded into years.

We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.

Sat in pews. An old man struggled to the front, hands trembling, eyes blurring, medals clinging to his chest.

Telling a tale never before shared.

Of parachutes, fighting behind enemy lines.

Of capture, the torment of the prison camp.

Of liberation, the gift the soldiers had given Grandfather.

For his leadership, fearlessness and love.

An odd shaped knife.

Fire&Ice Sol 7/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: I’ve always loved Mondays; there’s something so clean-slate and hope-filled about them. Maybe this week I’ll hit my writing targets. Maybe this week I’ll check those tiresome tasks off my list… This week I’ve a new one to add, as the ice dragon and I have each just committed to run 87 miles by our (American) Election Day Nov 3. (Whyyy did we do this? Shhhh, Self: that’s a Thursday-type question.) For now, it’s still sweet Monday, which at Fire&Ice means celebrating your stories. So Happy Monday, friends. We’re delighted to see you!

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 7’S JUDGES SAY:

Sinéad O’Hart:  Well, whew. What a crop this week. With prompts as good as these, and a wonderfully wide word count, it’s hardly a surprise that so many gems tumbled out of the story-sack. Thank you to everyone who submitted for trusting us with your work. Every time I have the honour of judging Flash! Friday it’s a privilege, and this week was no different.

The first story I want to make special mention of was the very first to cross my path – Bill Engleson‘s “A Final Flame.” I read this tale with no small amount of emotion, as to me it was about a woman at the end of her life, having suffered with a terminal illness (possibly cancer), and with the subtext that her loved one had done their best to end her pain. In the past few days, I lost a beloved family member to cancer, and so this story hit home in a special way. Sometimes, art truly can heal.

Other sparkling tales that caught my eye included James Atkinson‘s “The Breath of the Final Dragon” – such a fresh take on the dragon-fire idea, with some incredible imagery (‘lashes alive with parasites’), and a great take on the prompt of Justice. I also loved Voima Oy‘s “King Lear in the Federal Plaza,” with its evocative writing and great use of the prompts. My Sir Terry Pratchett-loving heart really enjoyed “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin” by Geoff LePard; those characters would be more than at home in Ankh-Morpork! My Good Omens-loving heart also enjoyed Laurence D‘s “Ezekiel,” which was a fun homage to Pratchett and Gaiman’s masterwork. Mark King‘s “Where Her Soul Goes to Walk” was an important, excellent, and moving commentary on race relations and the lives of marginalised people, as was “Afire” by Michael Seese – powerful and meaningful work, a privilege to read. Maggie Duncan‘s “Kholodnoye Pravosudiye” was one of my favourites, barely missing out on an Honorary Mention. It was elegant, cold, brilliantly controlled, and I loved the subtle ‘eternal flame’ – the one burning in Gavrilla’s heart.

But, judging is a two-person process, and consensus must be reached. Luckily, Craig and I were on the same page (almost exactly) when it came to our top picks. Choosing winners and Runners Up this week was more a case of two old dragons sharing pleasantries, rather than a duel to the flame. So, without further ado…


Craig Anderson: How did time go so quick that we are back in the hot seat? Feels like just moments ago that we were judging the first round of most excellent flash fiction, and suddenly a new batch of awesome was delivered to our virtual dragon’s den. Just as before you all made it tough to pick a favorite, but it is certainly a nice problem to have when you are literally spoiled for choice.

As before, Sinéad was an absolute pleasure to judge with. We both had a long list of favorites, which made it easy to find the overlapping stories that caught both our eyes. We’d also both landed on the same winner independently, which made things a whole lot easier!

As for my own favorites, I particularly enjoyed Marsha Adams‘ “They came for me at dawn,” which spoke of a dystopian world where only a few humans remained. I love the little hints of what might have happened, always teasing the wider story, while focusing on one very specific punishment. I also loved Firdaus Parvez‘s – “The Wind,” for the swift punishment dished out by the diminutive hero. I’m such a sucker for underdogs, and Hawa fit the bill perfectly. “Sleep Well Tonight” by Edison Arcane contained a whole backstory in its brief length, and the ending was very satisfying. Plus I’m also going to sneak in a mention for Geoff LePard‘s “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin“; I too immediately thought of STP, and that is high praise indeed!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Singular Love by Helen Laycock

SO: This story was so fresh and interesting, with an interesting and engaging perspective that drew me in right away. Well executed, with excellent details like the blood on the character’s thigh, which let the reader infer the subtext. A story with a whole world in it, skilfully drawn.

CA: I loved how this one started, which such powerful imagery of the women all moving in sync, like white smoke. That great imagery continued throughout, with the flames gently cradling the bundle, and the meandering blood, all painting such a vivid picture of a horrifying scene. The ending added a great punch, and twisted the whole tale on its head.

The Devil’s Kitchen by Steph Ellis

SO: Again, a story which immediately leapt off the page with its fresh perspective, and one I loved because of the almost throwaway line: ‘At least they’d buried her husband where no one would find him’ – narrated so casually, yet this line is the pivot point for the whole story. Masterful!

CA: This one jumped out for squeezing not one but two twists into its brief length. It starts so casually, like a walk in the woods, so good natured, and then the casual mention of dead bodies flips the whole thing on its head. Suddenly our campers become villains, and you worry for the person that they run into, but then the story twists again and karma comes back around quickly.

RUNNER UP

Legend Renewed  by MJ Bush

SO: Craig and I both loved this one. As well as its excellent use of the prompts, this story is evocative and moving, and it is a perfect example of the type of flash fiction I love so much – a story that works perfectly just as it is, but one which shows the reader a whole world. I loved the perspective, the centuries of lore and legend and the years of heroic duty; the crashing-together of the old and the new (the world might be technologically modern, but the old monsters remain), and the final image, the ancient tool being brought back into service, the light beating back the monsters of the dark. Excellent work.

CA: I really enjoyed the way this one spoke to the nature of legends, with the story slowly shifting over time, but the core pieces staying the same. Then it shifts gears, moving towards modern convenience, until everyone forgets the reason that the legend existed in the first place. It isn’t until that modern solution fails, and the old monsters return, that they receive such a sudden reminder, and they go right back to the old ways. A great analogy for our world these days.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

Astraea

SO – Again, my fellow judge and I were unanimous in our choice! I am a sucker for SF stories, and this one was a masterclass. A tale of a battle in space, at a time unspecified, but which could be mapped onto any Earthbound conflict, it drew me in and held me. The conversational tone: ‘The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history…’ was a powerful beginning to a story which culminated in the destruction of a planet in a ‘blast of searing plasma’. What clinched this for me (as well as all the other things I love in a good piece of flash – brilliant characters, the power of the story to both stand alone and show us a larger world, and emotional heft) was the excellent ending, with an old-tech weapon being used in a new-tech world. Such an interesting and clever detail, the perfect showstopper ending for a perfect story.

CA –I loved this one right away, but I am a sucker for great sci-fi, so when Sinéad had short-listed it as a potential winner too I was absolutely thrilled! As with all great sci-fi it has a great mix of old and new, of history and imagination. The repetition of (as such wars do) was such a great way to bookend the global conflict in just a couple of sentences. So much is conveyed in so few words, it is a masterclass in cramming an entire history into a handful of words. 

‘My memories fuelled my nightmares for a century’ is another great line, which paints such a vivid picture about the nature of the war, and how nobody truly won. It shows us how the MC feels about the atrocities committed in the name of war. The use of water and fire, of symbols of mercy and justice, was a great touch, and the gut punch ending of the unspoken third option was the perfect way to wrap up this tale. Wonderful flash!

Congratulations, Phil! Here’s your winning story:

ASTRAEA

The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history. I was an innocent boy with romantic notions of alien planets, great battles, and mighty heroes.

The war ended (as such wars do) in tears, and firing squads, and a vow never to forget. Never forget. My memories fueled my nightmares for a century. Even after I escaped the jail, fled the planet, buried my past deeper than my victims. At night I saw those purple eyes of a girl from Astraea — eyes that watched her family and her future die in a blast of searing plasma.

One day I saw those eyes again, in daylight. They held me entranced as she approached. We stood at the memorial: rippling waters and roaring flame.

“I could turn you in,” she said without preamble. “I should. Though a lifetime ago, justice knows no age.” Her face was pale as mine had been that day. “But the flame falters. Life, I see, has wearied us both. Mercy. Or justice.”

“So which will it be?” I asked. “The water? Or the fire?”

I never saw the pistol — only the glint in her eyes.

“The earth.”

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 24: WINNERS

Welcome to results! Many thanks for your long patience as you waited for them; I trust you spent the time WRITING, heh heh. — I find myself here at the close of the day overwhelmed by gratitude for so many things: among them you, my darlings, here in the Flash! Friday community. I hope each of you knows in your heart how important you are, and what a difference you are making in each other’s lives. And in mine. 

Thank you.

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Dragon Captains Pratibha/Sinéad O’Hart say: 

Pratibha:
Do we even need to say this? Isn’t it obvious now that this community rocks. Just in case this is your first time stumbling over this weekly contest, you’ve come to the best place for flash fiction, and welcome. I fell in love with the picture prompt immediately. With such awe-inspiring force of nature in front of you, it’s but natural to wonder about the nature as a formidable foe. The writers did an equally awe-inspiring job of capturing the shades of fear and victory over nature in their stories.

Sinéad:
The two powerful and meaty prompts this week certainly inspired a flood (no pun intended!) of wonderful stories, and thank you to everyone for sharing their imaginative worlds with us. Pratibha and I were united in our choice of winner this round, and I think it was because of the fact that it took a unique look at the prompts, creating a quietly emotional story out of them. Thank you for the tales of derring-do, the SF-tinged glances at other worlds, the comments on natural resources and their use, the visions of apocalypse and salvation, and most of all for the brilliant writing we’ve come to expect. Bravo, everyone.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best closing line: Craig Anderson, “Up a Creek.”

Pratibha: I loved the humorous opening line and the surprising closing line. 

Sinéad: Nothing I like better than a pompous old fool getting their comeuppance! This closing line made me laugh out loud.

Humour: Holly Geely, “Nature Calls.” 

Pratibha: Shades of “Friends” episode where Joey auditions for a Broadway play after drinking copious amounts of liquid. Very funny.

Sinéad: I loved the buildup here, and the uncomfortable knowledge that the ending was inevitable – much like an approaching waterfall! Plus, it tickled my puerile funny bone.

Best story on a topical subject: Mark A. King, “Tainted Love.”

Pratibha: I loved how the writer incorporated the current hot topic in the story.

Sinéad: Well, as an Irishwoman, I had to give a nod to a story which touches on my country’s historical vote over the weekend. A bit uncomfortable to read, at least for me, but I was impressed with the take on the prompts.

Best description of a waterfall: A.J. Walker, “The Falls.”

Pratibha: I was quite taken with the bewitching description of the waterfall.

Sinéad: Like Pratibha, the description of the falls here was captivating, and I loved the energy, spirit and indomitable life-force that pervades the tale, despite its sadness.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Margaret Locke, “A Natural Disaster.” 

Pratibha:
This story to me borders on being humorous and profound. I loved the humorous tone of the story from the very first word, “Oops!” It was fun to see so many mythological characters crammed into one little story.

Sinéad:
This one made me grin, but like Pratibha I felt there was something deeper being described here, about how thoughtless action can lead to unintended consequences. I loved the mythology, the snarky tone, and the sense of fun!

Steph Ellis, “Kept.” 

Pratibha:
I loved the personification of nature as a vengeful creature. The descriptions such as this, “Tendrils reached out from the vine-bound trees towards the prisoner, placing berries on her tongue, dripping water into her mouth. The wind carried Ania’s cries toward the camps.” are vivid, and kept me intrigued.

Sinéad:
This story stuck with me because of its personification of nature, but I saw it as a stern mother, taking a hard line with her disobedient children after they’ve destroyed all the chances she has given them. Her worn-thin patience, and her pained determination, were memorable to me, as well as her calculating cleverness.

Nancy Chenier, Subsistence.” 

Pratibha:
This story stood out for the unique and imaginative setting. The language is enchanting with some gorgeous imagery, “And though gestated by tears and howls, the infant Petra emerged swaddled in serenity.”

Sinéad:
Well, wow. This one created such incredible visions in my mind, and I adored its SF-setting and its otherworldly feel. These elements were heightened when contrasted with the earthy, bodily descriptions of pregnancy and motherhood, and the ‘pebbles pressed between tongue and palate’, which are so concrete and easy to imagine. Just fantastic.

Eliza Archer, “The Second Flood.” 

Pratibha:
What a beautiful metaphor for life culminating in a fall over the cascading waterfall of death. Nature always wins when thought of this way. I loved the descriptions of a child growing up from infancy to death.

Sinéad:
Life as a river, ending in a final waterfall – and beautifully written, structured and imagined, to boot. I loved the tiny details it picked up on, which made it at once so individual and yet so universal, and the aching sense of inevitability and finality at the end.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Silicon, “Civilization.” 

Pratibha:
I liked the premise of this story: Man has destroyed the earth so much that there is no one left to take when the final flood comes. I love the gentle progression of erosion delivered through a nonchalant voice. This is a good narrative technique. The conflict reaches the climax with the line, “The histories claimed it was a place to live. Now, they knew it a place to die.” I loved the language and the turn of phrases throughout the story.

Sinéad:
This story, for me, was a fascinating mix of dystopia and the present day, a window into a possible future where the planet has been destroyed almost completely and a comment on our own time, where keyboard clicks and meaningless ‘social’ interaction have rendered individuals powerless. I thought it employed wonderful language, particularly the line: ‘One by one they dropped, like flies, like people. Silently, into the darkness’, and the final stark image (that of there being nobody left to take when the final reckoning came) was unforgettable.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Streaming.”

Pratibha: This story grabbed me from the very first sentence. The movement of the waterfall is echoed in the construction of the story. I love the imaginative take on the prompt. The real problem for the mother and her sick child is poverty, but there is a strong conflict between the family and the powerful yet indifferent nature which slowly erodes the life.

Sinéad:
As Pratibha has said, it was this story’s structure and its inevitable flow – so reminiscent of the waterfall prompt – which gave it such power and set it apart. It invites reading aloud, like a spoken-word poetry piece, the rhythm in the words like water running over stones, growing faster and faster until the inescapable end. Its dreadful impact is so memorable, its imagery so clear, and its poignant emotion so palpable, that it had to be rewarded with a podium place.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Geoff LePard, “Choosing a Path.”

Pratibha:
This story is told through a dialogue between the son and his father. Father’s lifelong struggle to nurture his son in-spite of the obstacles is conveyed expertly. In the end will the father’s nurturing will win over the son’s melancholy nature? “I am a weight,” the son says. Will the father toss the weight? I loved the back and forth tug-of-war, and the way the water fall is weaved in the story.

Sinéad:
As our Dragon Queen may have pointed out, I am a huge fan of dialogue in stories. When used well, it can draw a reader in like nothing else. This story, for me, was a masterclass in how to create a world, and a set of characters, using little else besides the exchanges between them. The beautiful relationship between father and son struck me, and the nurturing love they shared in the face of adversity and abandonment. The wrenching end – with its slightly ambiguous feel – remained with me, and the image of the waterfall as their final triumph, and their end, was a powerful one.

And now: for her FOURTH (!) time, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

TAMARA SHOEMAKER!!!

for

“The Lighthouse”

Pratibha: 
I love this story for many reasons. It opens with a woman standing on the precipice just like the one in the picture prompt, but then takes the reader through an emotional waterfall over the rocky mental anguish and the deep waters. An excellent metaphorical use of the prompt and a powerful conflict of a (wo)man against the nature.  The author uses some powerful images and the language. I love the line that sums up the primary conflict, “Only one thing remains constant—the light in the mists of oblivion.”

Sinéad:
I loved this story for its powerful language and imagery, but it was the repeated phrase ‘Deep calls to deep; all your waves and breakers have swept over me’ which stole my heart completely. I thought the story’s depiction of dementia (which is what I assumed the older woman was suffering from) was beautiful, and heartbreaking, and very evocative, and the story used the prompts in a powerful and unique way. The waterfall is simultaneously her decline and her power, and the story’s end sees the character being decisive, active, and in control. In short, this story rang a bell inside me, and it stayed in my mind long after I first read it.

Congratulations, Tamara! Here’s your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

The Lighthouse

I stand at the precipice as the light flashes across the sweeping currents. Oceans of emptiness, misty ridges, and forests of oblivion blend into one conglomerate mass that shakes my inner core, shattering it—creeping cracks crawling through crumbling crevices.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Mom, you left the door open last night. The whispers plague me. Doctor visits, the dreaded diagnoses. She’ll need a full-time caretaker, you know.

I study the wrinkles that crease the back of my hand, the age spots that dot the surface. I do remember the whisper of cherubic lips on my cheek, pudgy fingers offering dandelion bouquets.

I don’t understand why I can’t find my children. I search the panorama, but they’re hidden in the mists.

Deep calls to deep…

Only one thing remains constant—the light in the mists of oblivion. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

I close my eyes and step over the precipice. Tumbling, flying, falling, I hit the emptiness, the ebb, the pull of current. The world says I am lost; I’ve forgotten and will be forgotten.

I wipe the tears from my eyes and swim toward your light where home lies beyond.

FFwinner-Web