Flash Frenzy: Round 7

Posted: February 15, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge

Welcome to Round 7!

Our judge this week is four-time Flash Frenzy winner and Flash Master extraordinaire, Karl Russell.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

Photo by Ashwin Rao

Photo by Ashwin Rao

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Comments
  1. stellakateT

    Crystal Droplets (358 words)

    The drooping daisies reminded me of bad times. Growing at the edge of the lake they were dying, end of their life span, like me. I wasn’t old. Just tired of the battles and never winning the war.

    I had been so excited when my wedding flowers has arrived that morning, opening the large white box to see the perfect two bridesmaids bouquets, the men’s buttonholes and then my bouquet. The daisies framing the white roses looked dead. I’d rung the florists and told them on no circumstances was I walking down the aisle with that monstrosity. I can still hear the owner of the shop indignantly telling me that they were crystal droplets and supposed to look like that. She would send the driver back and rewire them. I should have taken that as a sign and ran for the hills but no my father walked me down the aisle that day.

    Now thirty odd years later I’m finally running for my life. He hadn’t taken it too well when I announced I’d had enough of my heart being bruised with his indifference. Always coming second to his work, his hobbies, his mates, even what was on the television that night. Think he was amazed I had an opinion that was different to his.
    He’d gone to hit me, I’d side stepped and he’d hit the wall with his clenched fist. That shocked him. He begged me, telling me he’d always loved me and he’d change if only I would stay. I stayed for five weeks.

    It was easy; he’d always been so trusting with the bank accounts. I’d transferred all the money into my own personal account. I left instructions with a local solicitor to start divorce proceedings and where to send my half of the house sale. I even informed the police I was in fear of my life and not to disclose my forwarding address.

    What I hadn’t taken into account was he hadn’t liked been left behind either. I was looking over my shoulder, cursing my choice in men, scanning every face for that of my lover. I felt safer with my husband.

  2. Image Ronin says:

    Sunrise (359 words)

    Alex dangled his feet, battered converse swaying above the rolling waves that thrashed in anger against jagged rocks. Opposite his cliff top perch the sun began lazily climbing, slowly peeling away the monochrome to reveal colour.

    ‘Howdy stranger!’

    Alex turned to see Emma pushing her bike out from the copse of woodland that concealed the road. He waved a hand in greeting, a smile breaking out across his face as she threw the bike down amongst the yellow flowers that blanketed the cliff top. He hadn’t expected anyone to come here this morning, yet he was pleased to see Emma.

    She sat down, cherry doc martens hanging beside his trainers, ‘great minds think alike eh?’

    Alex nodded, watching Emma root within her rucksack, retrieving, with a mischievous grin, a bottle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes. His quizzical look at her supplies was not well hidden, for Emma shot him an exasperated look in return. ‘A girl’s got to start the day with a healthy breakfast’, she tossed him some matches, ‘now light me up.’

    Alex pulled out two cigarettes, the wind frustrating his initial attempts to ignite. Finally they sat in silence, passing the bottle back and forth, blowing white clouds into existence.

    ‘So your folks, not bothered you’re here?’

    Emma flicked her butt into a tumbling arc towards the frenzy below, ‘nah, sat on the sofa with the talking heads. Yours?’

    ‘Weekend away, France. Course no flights …’ Alex beckoned across the sea.

    ‘Shit, bad timing eh? Well lets toast them to their overseas adventure.’ Emma passed him the bottle, surreptitiously brushing a tear away with her other hand, ‘do you think its gonna hurt?’ Alex shrugged, drinking deep, finding solace in the heat that filled his gut.

    The sun was higher now, bathing the world in deep red.

    Alex was surprised to feel Emma’s fingers intertwining with his, how comfortable it felt. He could talk to her, of crushes and fear, yet such things were irrelevant.

    ‘Look, its started …’

    Around them the yellow flowers were dying, Alex felt sick, yet Emma seemed calm, leaning in, her kiss blocking the sun.

    ‘C’mon, jump with me’

    @imageronin

  3. David Shakes says:

    ‘Beneath the Lone and Level Sands.’ (360 words)

    He still comes. Whether to find nostalgia, guilt or excitement I can’t tell. The sun dappled waters and meadow green grass bring lots of people: dog walkers or young lovers as once we were – but only he will linger in this spot.
    Along the bank the flowers grow vibrant and strong. Not here. Beneath the quiet earth and placid waters my bones lie still but my spirit writhes; my consciousness seethes. Above this decaying casement the diseased flowers are my subtle metaphor.
    He doesn’t see it. Isn’t able. That was always the problem.
    When we last sat together at this same spot I’d commented on its beauty – the quality of the light, the lapping of the waters.
    “Beauty fades, but love endures…” he’d said earnestly, and I’d laughed. Fatal.
    When now he sits alone and stares out across the open lake it’s easy to take him for the wistful poet. He carries the same tattered copy of Shelley that had baited me when still young enough for romance to better rationality.
    I’d realised too late that his poetry and personality were plagiarised; his emotions no deeper than the waters at the edge of this makeshift grave I now lie in. It was not until his choking grip that my bulging eyes truly looked into his and found them empty. That quirky smile fell away to reveal what his beloved Shelley would call ‘…the sneer of cold command.’
    “NEVER laugh at me!” he’d whispered -spittle flying from his lips; but his hands had already crushed my trachea and his fingers stopped the flow in my arteries. I never would.
    When my soul awoke beneath the mud (and my months of silent screaming ceased) I’d known two things – God must have no place for me but I’d give the Devil his due.
    Nobody found my resting place that first season. Slowly, life took hold again. The fresh earth weeded over, meadow flowers pushed up. As their roots drew up nutrients from my decaying corpse, my spirit sucked the life-force back, bending it to my will.
    And now? I’m ready.
    He’ll come today and my heart will feed.

    David Shakes
    @theshakes72

  4. Tinman says:

    On Limited Offer
    343 words
    @TinmanDoesBadly

    Each autumn the pilgrims would come.

    They would climb for five days, barefoot and clad only in bubble-wrap, to the Ephemeral Monastery, high in the mountains of Tibet. These hardy souls came seeking answers to universal questions, since they had learned not to trust Wikipedia.

    No woman has ever set foot in the monastery, because they have more sense.

    The pilgrims would be woken by the Ephemeral Monks at four a.m. each morning to welcome a day that would not start for another three hours, the spiritual equivalent of filming a Christmas special in October. After a meagre breakfast of yak, named after the sound made upon tasting it, they would visit the Gardens of Transience, where they would study the wilting flowers and aging animals, and reflect upon the impermanence of all things.

    Then one day a pilgrim offered to buy a bunch of withering roses, to give to a girlfriend who was about to discover the fleeting nature of relationships.

    A month later the Monks received a letter from the girl, asking could she buy a dying skunk.

    Social media and the smell from the man’s apartment quickly spread the word, and soon the Monks were getting so much mail that they took to waking the pilgrims at three, just to help them to open it.

    The Monks reflected themselves, upon their vow of poverty, and decided yeah, right. They have opened a website, WiltedDaisy.com, where along with fading flora and fauna they sell frayed clothing, pre-dented cars and anti-botox, a cream that causes wrinkles.

    Their slogan is “get it while you last”.

    Other monasteries have quickly set up competing websites, offering everything from balding lions to fallen trees to bottled gout. Indeed, one is selling not dying but extinct items – for example, forty dollars buys you a dodo, though what you actually receive is an empty box and the opportunity to reflect upon the permanence of human gullibility.

    So the Ephemeral Monks know that their success won’t last forever. But then, as they’ll be first to tell you, nothing does.

  5. The War Within (303 words)

    Memories of addiction never truly dissolve. Between sips of coffee my mind fluctuates between feelings of renewal and new beginnings to self-loathing and guilt. Rebirth and shame. A man can change his course over time, reshape his motivations, but he can rarely forget the echoes of desperation that led to his undoing. Addiction resides in your marrow, whispers in your ear, always beckoning, always reminding. You try not to listen, you plead with it to let you be. It’s not that simple you see, addiction is there with you in the shower, at the breakfast table, when you kiss your daughter on the cheek before school. Always telling you hard truths about your past, about the degenerate you once were. It mocks you for believing in yourself again. That’s the game we play, me and addiction, it has a preference for torturing while I have a tendency to deflect, to reframe.

    The key is to stay resolute, don’t succumb to the temptress that only has the singular intent of slaying hope. You have to focus on who you are today, a rebuilt person devoid of disease. A family man, a good friend, a rearranged man. The demon will always be chasing you, hunting you down, hell-bent on ensnaring you in its suffocating grip. You’ve grown strong, though, like tungsten steel. The armor you go into battle with was forged over years and years of learning and adapting. Recognition and acknowledgement, an understanding.

    Everyday that I rise up against the seductive temptress of addiction and don’t give in, I head out to the lake behind my home and gaze upon the duality of the past and present. The decaying flowers a snapshot of what I once was and could still be again, pathetic and tired. The tranquil water a shimmering endorsement of being reborn. Whole.

    @Blukris

  6. Forever
    359 words
    @triffic_tinika

    He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

    The smile that was plastered on my face faded. That was the fifth daisy to tell me that Paul, the love of my life, no longer loved me. I knew it couldn’t be true. Why would he ask to meet me here if he didn’t? Besides, what did they know? They were wilting.

    I sighed and drenched the survivors with what was in my water bottle. It was a rough summer for them. It was a rough summer for me too.

    The last time I saw Paul, we are standing on the steps of the art museum. Moments earlier, I discovered he had a wife and two children. Just as quickly as I found him, I left him. Despite his pleas and declarations of love, I couldn’t give my all to a man who was only giving me half of himself. I walked away, sure that I would never hear from him again.

    He surprised me several months later with a thousand roses and a letter that would make James Joyce blush. He loved me. He ached for me. He wanted only me in his bed and in his heart. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed him too.

    We agreed to meet at the lake where we shared our first kiss. I arrived early armed with a picnic basket and poetry. That was six hours ago.

    As I packed up my belongings, a strange woman approached me. Tears stained her rosy cheeks.

    “Are you Caroline?” she asked.
    “Depends who’s asking.” I replied.
    “I’m Mrs. Lana Wilkes. I believe you know my husband Paul.”
    “ Look, I-”
    “Save it. I already know what’s going on. I just wanted to tell you that Paul died.”
    “He…he what?” I stammered.
    “His breaks stopped working. He crashed into another vehicle. This was on the passenger seat.”

    Paul’s wife tossed me a bouquet of roses. There was a card attached. It read: FOREVER AND EVER.

    Mrs. Wilkes pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. I guess Paul and I would be together after all.

  7. “Careless”
    Word Count: 325
    @jaimeburchardt

    Julie’s face said it all. With her jaw dropped, a tiny little shriek came out. The volume didn’t attract anyone around her to turn around. But still.
    The flowers are dying.

    Her mother warned her not to capture the moment…

    The touch of her fiance’s hand to her shoulder brings her back to the present. “Sweetie, you ok?”

    A gasp breaks free from her lips. “Oh! I’m fine, I’m just…”

    “Hey, don’t worry about the flowers,” he said. “I talked to Jeremy. The flower guy is bringing in a fresh set for the photos. He’ll dig these out, switch them out, and ta-da! Awesome wedding pictures.”

    “Oh course! Fantastic,” she said angrily. “I can’t complain, I’m the one that wanted an outdoor wedding!”

    She then let out a crazed laugh. It didn’t seem to faze him.

    “I’m gonna finish getting ready. Oh! Also, sweetie, have you seen Dan? I tried calling him but he’s not answering. Rehearsal dinner’s almost in an hour.”

    “Oh, you know Dan! I’m sure he’ll be along shortly.”

    He smiled. “I love that you’re not freaking out. See you inside!”

    And with that he ran off. She went back to panicking. Her shortage of breath didn’t make her realize that her mother was not far away.

    The panic mode is full blown now.

    “So…” her mother said with a grin on her face. “…This is where you buried Dan.”

    A squeak came out of Julie’s mouth. “Yep. Yep yep yep. I…I didn’t think the flowers would be dying this soon!”

    Her mother let out a little laugh. “You’ve been preoccupied.”

    “He…” Julie started, not hiding her anger this time. “He was going to ruin my wedding! But I didn’t think—I—I—”

    “That’s right, dearie, you didn’t think,” her mother said. “You’ve been preoccupied. However…”

    She didn’t quite finish. She turned her back to her daughter, and started walking away, complete with that grin.

    “…I warned you not to capture this moment.”

  8. Jacki Donnellan says:

    Yet

    The sea of faded cardigans around the table murmured drily.

    “And this one is the crème de la creme,” continued The Suit, with an almost medical professionalism. “The Dorchester. Solid oak, with brass handles and trim.”

    He gestured to a photo with his palm.

    “I went to the Dorchester once,” someone announced, happily. “For high tea.”

    The Suit waited uncertainly for a quiet rippling of “Oo!” to subside, before continuing. “It’s lined with white silk, and-“

    “Isn’t it terribly expensive?” another voice asked.

    “Well, madam,” replied The Suit, dropping medical in favour of educational, “how does one define ‘expensive,’ when planning one’s grand finale? Quality comes appropriately priced. If you choose not just to invest but to invest wisely in “Departing with Decorum”, then you can-quite literally-rest safely in the knowledge that your loved ones will attend the kind of funeral where people say to themselves: “Yes. There goes Doris, looking as smart in death as she did in life.”

    “But my name’s Marjorie,” came the reply. “And I meant tea, at the Dorchester.”

    The Suit sighed. They weren’t making it easy for him, and I was glad. I didn’t like him being here, in our Home, on a day when the sun was shining and even the last wilting flower stalks in the beds outside were dancing merrily in the breeze.

    A dramatic scream suddenly pierced the air, and I looked over just in time to see my good friend Daisy slide from her chair and lie in a folded heap under the table.

    Everybody chuckled. The Suit gaped at them, horrified.

    “It’s okay!” I called to him from my armchair. “She’ll be fine. Probably just a bit shocked at the price of your tombstones. Just give her a minute. And…well…perhaps you ought to go and get her a glass of water.”

    The Suit recomposed himself, stood, and nose-dived into the carpet.

    Laughter burst suddenly into bloom around the room, filling it with giddy sunbeams. Daisy climbed out from under the table, brushing her faded yellow cardigan and grinning mischievously.

    The Suit had managed to sit up and was examining his granny-knotted shoelaces with incredulity.

    We weren’t dead yet.

    360 words
    @Donnellanjacki

  9. milambc says:

    Snuffed (348 words)

    They say destruction is easier than creation. Take the flower where nature’s labor of love goes unnoticed. From a small seed germination begins, leaves form, and then the flower buds into a delicate formation, dancing in the wind. Within seconds, the flower can be ripped from its roots by an errant heel, a wayward limb.

    Or consider the human: Gestation for nine months and death in an instant. Seven billion people on the planet, so a few go missing; nobody cares. What are a few dead bodies to billions of people? What’s one flower ripped from the lush soil when there’s an entire flowerbed? Insignificance and frailty is what defines us. Destruction is everywhere. Destruction is easy. It is nature’s calling card.

    Derek fed on the insignificance. Nobody cared about some fuck-object, like Ginger or Lily. Nobody cared about Holly with track marks. Allen with no home left no one worrying. Nobody cared about Derek, either. He was just another nameless one of seven billion.

    Snuffing out a human was like blowing a dandelion apart. To Derek, the kick was seeing the pieces – that was his province; his craft.

    As best he knew, he was always like this. When he was a kid, he brought his turtle to the neighborhood creek bed. He wanted to know what was under the shell. So, he took a hammer and cranked the shell off. Then he wanted to know what was behind the eyes.

    He asked his mom for another one.

    Naturally, he wanted to go further. The lepers of society were too easy. He moved to the suburbs, like a cancerous growth. People in the suburbs thought they had erected a shell to keep the monsters away. It wasn’t the inner-city or the expansive countryside. Neighbors, lawns, dogs, newspaper deliveries created an air of normalcy that defied nature. Derek was nature’s way of correcting the imbalance.

    But that was his undoing. He was sloppy, just like with the turtle. And kept hammering and hammering. He now sat on death row.

    That was fine. Destruction was nature’s way, even with Derek.

    @brett_milam

  10. Kristen says:

    “Authorities Warn Against Seeking Time Travel on Craig’s List”
    Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    @kristenafc
    355 words

    She found him through an ad on Craig’s List.

    It was the photo that hooked her. It featured a bunch of dead daisies with a caption, which said: “Wish you could turn back time? Miracle Man Makes It Happen!”

    She thought, it’s probably a scam. It’s got to be a scam. It’s a scam.

    But she called him anyway.

    His name was Ralph. She wasn’t quite sure what she expected for a Miracle Man —‘Zeus,’ maybe?

    But Ralph was the Miracle Man. He told her to meet him in a parking lot on the north end of the city.

    He stood about 5′ 6″ inches tall and was wiry, kind of twitchy too, with an unctuous smile and a clammy handshake.

    A photo of the dead flowers was attached to the side of his 1991 Mitsubishi Mirage.

    “What can I do for you my dear?”

    “I need to go back to March 1st.”

    “Why?”

    “That was the day my little sister died.”

    “How?”

    “We were driving, and I hit a tree. If I could go back, I’m sure I can save her.”

    “Payment is $100.”

    “Will it hurt?”

    “Oh, quite a bit, my dear. But don’t worry. You won’t remember a thing.”

    She paid him, and he performed a ritual. It didn’t make much sense to her, but she did indeed go back in time, and she did indeed save her sister.

    He just didn’t tell her about the catch.

    The next day he got a phone call.

    He met the young woman in the parking lot.

    She said, “Send me back to March 1st.”

    “Why?”

    “My older sister died in a car accident. I need to go back and fix things.”

    “Payment, my dear, is $100.” He smiled and she handed over the money with trembling hands.

    He knew the next day he would receive a phone call. And the next.

    He promised himself he’d stop when he got to $1000, but the sisters continued to call.

    He needed a new car. And a hot tub. Really, he had so many expenses. He’d stop as soon as he got to $2000. Really, he would.

  11. ladyhazmat says:

    And that’s it for Round 7. Thanks to all who came out to share stories this Valentine’s Day Weekend. Be sure to check in later this week to see who Karl A Russell chooses as the Angry Hourglass’s next FLASH MASTER!

  12. Thanks again for letting me read all of these, it was a real honour to judge this week. The final decision was very difficult as the quality was consistently high and there wasn’t a lot to choose between them. I made some notes on each story as I read it, and here they are, tidied up into a more readable form:

    Crystal Droplets – Stella

    I can always pick out Stella’s stories of wronged women and dotty dowagers by their gleefully extracted vengeance and this was no exception. A story of two halves, with the earlier wedding memories prefiguring a long-delayed marital collapse, the regretful tone of the final line suggests that while our narrator may be older than the blushing bride she once was, she is not much wiser and still prone to making bad decisions. I would love to see it expanded into a longer piece, especially to see the calculated way in which she takes back the home, finances and her freedom.

    Beneath The Lone And Level Sands – David Shakes

    A poetic revenge tale, with our unnamed narrator waiting patiently as her taint spreads to her surroundings, leaching the life from the flowers. Her killer lingers where everyone else passes by, confirming both his guilt and his inability to really connect with anyone outside of himself, making him a truly scary monster. That emptiness is reflected in the glacial language and the central victim’s flat, almost emotionless description of her own murder and rebirth.

    The War Within – Blukris

    This was a tough read, a confessional piece from the outer shores of experience. Little hints about the narrator’s new life reinforce the image of a man who has gone through the wringer and is now taking it one day at a time. Like the contrast between the decaying flowers and the renewing waters, the language of addiction and recovery were also strongly delineated, pitting the biblical terms of demonic temptation against the scientific, almost new age-y expressions of reshaping, rebuilding and rebirth.

    Forever – Tinika

    This is the best story yet from Tinika, who presents us with a fully formed tale of love, loss and anguished revenge. The flowers know what’s happened long before our narrator does, telling her that Paul “no longer” loved her, a far more final, fatal phrase than the usual “he loves me not.” The flower motif is revisited several times, through the thousand roses and the rosy cheeked wife to that tell-tale bouquet, and you wonder if Paul was in the habit of making such grand romantic gestures on a regular basis. Whatever happens with Lana and Carline after that final full stop, I like to think that they’re both better off without him.

    Careless – Jaime Burchardt

    I loved the mother in this. Although she is at least an accessory to murder, her mocking tone and spiteful desire to see her daughter arrested on her wedding day give her a life that pops off the page. Her collusion offers no clues as to why Dan is sleeping with the daisies, and maybe he really deserved it, but her attitude of “Mommy knows best” suggests that her daughter’s imminent downfall is equally deserved. You should always listen to your mother, especially when it comes to the secure disposition of a corpse…

    Snuffed – Brett Milam

    I can’t shift the idea of that poor turtle from my mind, and I think that’s all down to the phrasing- “he took a hammer and cranked the shell off.” Eww! Allen’s callous disregard for humanity, even his own, shone through in the brutal language which equated dead flowers with dead people – Who notices one more or less? His acceptance of his fate at the end is perfectly in keeping with his twisted philosophy and makes him all the scarier.

    “Authorities Warn Against Seeking Time Travel on Craig’s List” – Kirsten Falso-Capaldi

    The moral of this tale has to be “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Kirsten’s cut rate chrononaut offers a wish-fulfilment scheme straight out of the monkey’s paw school of bad deals, and if it’s a shame to see a pair of desperate siblings being taken advantage of, it’s deeply, darkly funny to see them being scammed again and again and again. My paradox sense is tingling, and I know that he should never even make it to $200, let alone $2000, but the story has an internal logic all of its own and who am I to argue with the Miracle Man?

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