Flash Frenzy: Round 14

Posted: April 5, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome to Round 14!

Your judge this week is Jaime Burchardt.

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 TheShakes72

Photo by TheShakes72

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Comments
  1. Bart says:

    Against The Grain

    “I’m going to try and find my luck in the city, pa,” he said with conviction.

    16 words
    Bart Van Goethem
    @bartvangoethem

  2. David Shakes says:

    ‘We Sell Them in Spades’
    360 words
    David Shakes
    @theshakes72

    The Navvies that dug and died in our flume are still here. They’d washed into the headrest – a flash flood off the hills swept them down into the reservoir and trapped them in that deep, narrow aqueduct. You’ll still hear their cries on rainy nights.

    We have lots of rainy nights here in the north country.

    Now and again (more frequently than you’d assume) a soul washes in through the floodgate and transfers to the machinery as the water powers through our turbine.

    Then there’s hell to pay. We’re a traditional spade-makers – tools of their trade, and those souls get mighty sore when reminded the job they did to earn a living actually caused their deaths.

    The first spade was returned a few years ago:

    ‘Faulty,’ says the woman.
    ‘Faulty?’ we ask.
    ‘Cut my Husband’s toes clean off.’
    ‘User error, Madam…’ we speculate.
    ‘User error be damned. It’s haunted.’ she says flatly.

    Her husband was digging his allotment when a burly Irish Navvy appeared out of nowhere. He was stood before him, hedgerow still visible through his moleskins. Quite a shock, as you’d imagine – so much so, he planted the spade square through the end of his foot!

    We left that one for the injury lawyers to laugh out of their offices – but the story grew locally and the tabloids got involved.

    One day that woman turned up on a daytime talk show. The presenter was a former gardening show host so there was a nice irony. One the tabloids picked up on.

    After that (if you’ll pardon the pun) the floodgates opened. Second rate film crews from third rate cable shows came and set up their infra-red and EVP. Turns out our humble mill is riddled with spirits and ‘orbs’!

    ‘Where’s me poitin?’ is the clearest EVP recording. I always find that funny. We stock bottles in our fully licensed gift shop you’ll notice. The tourists really go for it – we’ve an mp3 of the voice playing on a loop.

    We don’t sell the spades in our shop any longer. Too valuable. They’ll fetch thousands on e-bay!

    You couldn’t make it up, could you?

  3. Roots

    I’d always hated that painting; it had hung on the parlour wall for fifty years. My Grandma had brought it with her when she emigrated south. We always laughed at that, she’d moved from Dewsbury to Oxford, not to the other side of the world. She said the mills she knew were dark, foreboding places where her friends had lost limbs, eye sights and even their lives. I now know she was talking about the textile mills of the north. I don’t suppose it was much fun working in a flour mill either with the threat of lung diseases stealing your breath.

    I could feel my father’s presence before I saw him. He stood in the doorway, covered in dust; he’d been up in the loft searching for anything of value. His visits to his mother were sporadic, too busy with his students, the future movers and shakers of their generation.

    “Load of rubbish up there Marcus”

    “Looking for a Lowry Dad”?

    God knows what he thought he’d find. When the time comes and I’m sorting out his home it will be a different kettle of fish. Dad prides himself that all his possessions are of great monetary value. Nothing sentimental clouds his judgement not even family. Granddad used to say he worked double shifts to pay for his son’s education, no working in the mills or going down a pit for him. Grandma was so proud of her son winning a scholarship, training to be a teacher, becoming a Don then a Professor of Archaeology at a prestigious Oxford college.

    “That can go in the skip” said Dad pointing at the painting.

    I nodded.

    I don’t care the looks friends give me when they walk into my ultra modern flat and the first thing they see is the Mill. Grandma wanted us all to remember her roots but not the dark satanic mill she worked in. Compassion in our family missed a generation.

    324 words
    @stellakateT

  4. Sal Page says:

    Impossible

    I love doing things that seem impossible when you start. Like when I began building this house. Never done anything like that before. I was at a loose end one day, picked up some bits and pieces and began to glue them together.

    I made the walls out of matchsticks cut to look like bricks. That took weeks but it was worth it. I made furniture from my old wooden ruler- a bed, a desk and a sofa – and papered the wall with squares cut from one of your maps. The roof’s tiled with all those half pennies I collected obsessively as a child. The water wheel is made from lollysticks dipped in gravy browning. Like a strange Tiramisu.

    I’ve placed my sturdy little house high up on the beach where a tiny stream begins but the tide never reaches. The stream’s only a trickle but that’s enough to power the Christmas tree bulb lighting.

    Look through one of the sugar windows. You can see the fireplace and a tray of tea things. And doesn’t that bed look cosy? No, it’s not a doll’s house. Its far too beautiful for dolls though I say so myself.

    Now just one more impossible thing. I need to shrink us both to size so we have the perfect home.

    What do you mean you don’t want to be that tiny?

    @SalnPage

    (229)

  5. The Watermill

    Johan watched the outgoing watchman wade through the icy waters, following the guide rope, until his lantern was swallowed by the darkness. It was his first time guarding the watermill, and he turned to his Grandpapa, sitting at the small table.

    “Now what?”

    Grandpapa shrugged.

    “Now is to sit.”

    The boy sat, but the night was long and dull and he soon slept, lulled by the constant clonk of the ratchets as they caught and released, caught and released, caught –

    He jerked awake to the sound of bells. Falling from his chair, covering his ears, he scrambled instinctively for the door. Grandpapa caught him as he teetered on the threshold, a moment from falling. Where the building had been an island, surrounded by a constant torrent, it now towered above a thick sludge, the river bed exposed for the first time in centuries.

    The river was gone and the wheels had ceased to turn, releasing the bells, sounding a warning across the valley.

    Grandpapa dragged him back into the building, screaming something the boy couldn’t hear, drawing his knife.

    As they approached the great stone casket, found the lid cracked wide, the first bell crashed to the ground, splintering the flagstones. They cowered against the walls as the remaining bells were cut from their mounts. Each one hit with a deafening clang, then fell silent.

    High above them, a mocking voice called out, “The waters no longer flow, Radu. I am free.”

    Grandpapa staggered to his feet, took his knife and began to ring it against the nearest bell, shouting over the din.

    “You will never prevail, Strigoi. You kill me, the boy, but the village men? No! They are young. They are strong. They are warned.”

    “You are wrong old man.”

    Johan turned to see a woman in the doorway. It seemed that she was covered in mud, but in the lamplight he saw that it only went up to her knees. The rest of her naked body was smeared in something else.

    Something red.

    “My master is free and your men will not save you, even with their strong young bodies. What do you think dammed the river?”

    @Karl_A_Russell
    360 words

  6. The Day The Puppets Danced

    Yeye tinkered. It wasn’t a serious addiction, as far as we, the family, could tell. Until it was. We had gotten used to his new-fangled “devices”. Sometimes they even came in useful. With time’s passing, they grew more intricate. Diagrams of increasing complexity on scraps strung about the house; scrawls captured late at night. They made sense to him, at least. It wasn’t until the plans which reinvented, yet simplified, looming that the province – and, indeed, those closest to him – looked less than askance and with something gravitating towards respect at our introverted elder. He relied on his gadgets to speak for themselves, continuing to vary and experiment. We presumed he knew to what end. Knew better now than to interfere. Yeye would come to his conclusions in his own time. Practically.

    Even so, the commission surprised us. That the Emperor should make such a request. Questioned whether it could be done. Yeye seemed unfazed, as far we could tell for someone of so few words. At least, there was no change in his expression on surveying the request. Perhaps he saw it as one more challenge. Certainly, there would be no refusal. He would take on the task. To make the puppets dance.

    It was known to all that the Emperor had a theatre of puppets; motionless, frozen in place, scene by scene. What he demanded was simple in concept, complex in potential execution. He demanded to know if they could be made to move. He wished for the ingenious. To see them dance. The wish took wings amongst the populace. Then, all waited to see if Yeye completed the command.

    We, his family, watched with wondering eyes, as wood was fashioned into horizontal rotating wheel powered by, as far as we could detect, unseen water. Thus dawned the day the puppets danced. Amongst the array of figures, a flautist accompanied a full choir, as others danced in time. Men beat drums behind them, whilst government officials went about their business in alternate scenes. A myriad of differing variations, with all in constant motion. We danced with them in delight, scarcely able to help ourselves. The Emperor simply smiled.

    @FallIntoFiction

    360 words

  7. Run Away With Me

    “Psst! Emma! Psst!” Jack hissed from the bushes behind the mill. Emma charged down the steps and met him halfway on the bridge. Although it was important for them to be discreet, they had to talk loudly to hear each other over the rushing water.

    “Are you crazy? You know you shouldn’t call on me at work. If we get caught-”
    “I know, I know. The water will be red.”
    “So why are you here?” Emma asked.

    “I’m leaving tonight on a tramp steamer. I want you to come with me.” Jack said.
    Emma gasped. “What? That’s crazy! Why didn’t you tell me before?”
    “I didn’t know until about an hour ago. This town isn’t for me. And I know it isn’t for you either. We can leave here. Be together openly. There are parts of the world that won’t care about the color of our skin.”
    “And there are parts of the world that will.” Emma retorted.
    “We’ll just avoid those places. What do you say?” Jack asked.
    Emma turned away from him. “I don’t know. I have to think about it.”
    “Well you haven’t got much time. If you do want to go, meet me by the docks at dusk. If not…I will understand.”

    Emma spent the rest of the day thinking of Jack’s proposal. She loved Jack and didn’t want to stay in that small minded town forever. However, it was the only place she knew. It didn’t matter where they went. People would still look at them with disgust if they walked hand in hand together.

    Jack waited by the docks for Emma long after the sun had set. The boat blew its whistle. If Jack wanted to leave, he needed to go now. With a heavy heart, he got in line to board the boat.

    “Jack! Jack!” A woman shouted just as he was about to board. He turned around. To his surprise, it was Emma.
    “If anyone’s worth taking a chance on, it’s you.” She said as they boarded the boat

    @triffic_tinika
    337 words

  8. “The Writer’s Mill”

    Writers! Having a hard time finishing your novel? Looking for a change of pace, the perfect place to settle down and finish your masterpiece? At The Writer’s Mill you’ll find serenity, seclusion, and inspiration. Join us and become the best writer you can be!

    The ad had seemed tacky at first. Joan abhorred copy that included exclamation points. But as she had clicked through the pictures of the old red brick building, the idyllic growths of ivy that seemed a nod to the kind of buildings that housed the best and brightest at prestigious schools, the doubts began to wane.
    The pictures of the large bedroom with a four poster bed, decked out with some of the richest looking bedding she had every seen, and a large oak desk tucked under a window that streamed with sunlight were the final clincher.

    She had three hundred pages of what she thought was an elegant, thought-provoking novel that she had been struggling to finish.
    She emailed the proprietor to inquire as to when she might be able to begin her stay and was pleased to discover that she could arrive in two weeks and have the place to herself for at least a month.
    Joan made the arrangements and arrived at “The Writer’s Mill” excited to submerge herself in her writing.

    She spent mornings writing at the desk from the pictures, coffee and pastries on hand. She walked in the afternoons, mental working out plot issues and picking bright wildflowers. At night she slept the deep sleep that only fresh country air could provide.

    Finally, she finished her book.

    She gave her notice to the proprietor.
    The next morning, as Joan left the building a woman appeared on the walkway.
    “Congratulations on finishing your work! I hope you enjoyed your stay with us,” she said.
    “I did, thank you. I think I’ve got something special here,” Joan said.
    “Perhaps you do,” she answered and brought out a pistol and shot Joan. Joan tumbled into the rushing water below.
    The woman calmly opened the suitcase and pulled out the manuscript. Another book to sell to her agent.
    God bless The Writer’s Mill.

    360 Words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  9. Welcome To Stigma House

    Dusk on Friday night, time for our weekly ritual. With some people derailed by tenacious urges and subsequently vanishing, and others arriving weary and seeking a tranquil refuge, introductions were a constant need.

    Chuck: “Crack addict. Stole from my Grandma.”

    Janice: “Husband found comfort in my bruises. I fled.”

    Arthur: “Pain pills and alcohol.”

    Christian: “Bipolar. No insurance.”

    Jerry: “Told dad I was gay. A silent goodbye followed.”

    Bethany: “Laid off. Found solace at the casino.”

    Terence: “Parents kicked me out after finding my stash of weed.”

    Lou: “Served in Afghanistan. PTSD.”

    Margot: “Depression and anxiety. Tried to hang myself. Spent a week in the psyche ward.”

    Me: “Shattered heart. Discovered heroin. Crumbled.”

    We were up to thirty outcasts residing here now, trying our hand at transformation. A revolving door of human tragedy taking one day at a time.

    “Anybody seen Jasmine?” I asked.

    “She headed out to the pond to clean up before dinner.” someone yelled.

    Lou started a small fire in the living room. With one wall completely obliterated, exposing a breezy evening, we weren’t concerned about smoke inhalation. And with no electricity, the fire was necessary.

    As Lou pulled the blackened hot dogs from the flame, Bethany poured everyone a Dixie cup of warm water from a gallon jug. Terence started frying some potatoes on an old paint can lid while Jerry grabbed the pilfered fast food ketchup packets. Once Chuck handed out wedges of cardboard and plastic sporks, we were ready to feast.

    Jasmine walked in freshly scrubbed and we exchanged yellowish smiles as I handed her a cardboard plate.

    “Thanks, Stephen. Any luck on the job search?”

    “Negative. Filled out a couple of apps but it’s difficult to get hired when you don’t own a phone. Took some aluminum cans down to the recycling yard, got us a pack of cigarettes.”

    “Well, at least we have each other.”

    Our community of broken people stuffing rancid pork down our throats, sustenance for another day. Victory.

    Jasmine was right. We ne’er-do-wells relied upon one another. A house teeming with fragile minds and unsavory pasts. Dozens of discarded and resilient humans fused together in a dilapidated stone haven.

    @Blukris
    360 words

  10. Leaving

    They were sure that wait was almost over. Since arriving at the watermill their focus had been on ensuring that the doors and windows were impenetrable. The barricade of timber and flour sacks wasn’t giving them a feeling that it would be enough. They knew that nothing would be enough after what they’d seen at the school. That had been replayed in their nightmares. Since the uprising, this planet was the last bastion of recognised civilisation but time was ticking.

    Isabelle edged closer to Jared and slipped her hand inside his. It felt cold and clammy but the warmth of the gesture filled him with a love that he was sure was not requited but he’d take with him anyway.
    “Thank you Jared” whispered Isabelle, “You’ve been so inspiring. You’ll always be with me in my soul when we leave”. She leant over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Jared shuffled, feeling his face turn crimson. He squeezed her hand in recognition but didn’t want eye contact as he always felt awkward with intimacy.
    Looking up at the wooden beams that criss-crossed the ceiling, Jared smiled.
    “I’ve always wanted to live in a watermill. I suppose I’ve managed to fulfil that life ambition. Don’t think I’ll get to own that vineyard though …” Jared felt Isabelle’s head rest on his shoulder.

    The smell was the first you knew of their arrival. When that hit your nose you knew that your countdown had begun.
    “They’re here!” Marcus jumped up and grabbed the shotgun, wrestling with the pellets in his shaking hands, he finally cracked it shut and lifted it towards the door.
    “It’s no use Marcus, you know that thing is useless against them” Jared held up his hand like a policeman stopping traffic.
    “It’s not for them” Marcus squeezed the trigger and Isabelle recoiled from Jared’s shoulder, knocking him to the floor. Marcus moved to straddle Jared, and pointed the shotgun again.
    “You saw the school Jared. You both don’t deserve that. You shouldn’t go like that. Please, Jared, hold Issy and close your eyes.”
    The wall collapsed and they’d arrived. It was too late, time was up.

    @JamesBrinsford
    359 words

  11. Le Moulin
    by Beth Deitchman
    @beth_deitchman
    347 words

    “I don’t remember this one,” Doris said.

    Betty leaned over to see which picture Doris held. “Le Moulin,” she whispered. The blush surprised her. At least fifty years had passed, yet Betty could still feel the heat of that day.

    “What was that?” Doris brayed.

    “The mill,” Betty replied. “I took it that summer I spent in Rouen.”

    “I never was good with languages like you,” Doris said, her voice clipped. “I never got the chance to travel.”

    Betty shrugged, letting Doris have her sulk. She picked up the discarded picture—faded after all these years—and studied it. Around her the cold dining room shifted, faded; the picture fell from her hands.

    She stood at the edge of that lazy river, warmed by the June sun, inhaling the scent of water and summer and something else—the rich, loamy earth near the old mill. Le moulin. Despite the day’s warmth, Betty shivered, the sensation radiating through her body. She held up a hand and gave a little cry. Her skin was smooth, taut, and clear, her fingers straight and free from pain. She touched her face, marveling at the softness, glanced down at her body, stunned by the firmness. “But how?” she whispered.

    From behind her came a rich voice, familiar though she hadn’t heard it in more than fifty years. “Bonjour, mademoiselle.”

    Betty closed her eyes, gave a silent prayer, and turned around. When she opened her eyes, she smiled. “Jean,” she said.

    He held out his arms. “I have been waiting.”

    Betty rushed into his embrace, remembering the sweetness of his arms wrapped around her, the earthiness of his smell, the heat of his body. For a perfect moment Jean held her.

    “What about this one?”

    “What?” Betty said, looking up at Jean. He smiled at her then kissed her forehead.

    “Betty?”

    A cold hand grasped her arm, and Betty’s heart fell.

    “What about this one?” Doris said.

    “I’m not sure,” Betty replied. The winter chill settled again into her bones though the faint scent of summer, sun, and Jean clung to her skin.

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