Flash Frenzy Round 19

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , , ,

Welcome to Round 19!

Your judge this week is Image Ronin.

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 courtesy TheShakes42

Photo courtesy TheShakes72

  1. Jacki Donnellan says:

    Today’s the Day
    344 words

    Today’s the day.

    For some reason, those were the first words that popped into my head when I woke up this morning.

    And it seems that, somehow, I was right.

    Because whatever it was they’d been up to today, surely the woods shouldn’t look like this.

    I should never have brought him here. You would think that being a man, of my age, I wouldn’t be so soft.

    But that was just it. Throughout my life, no matter how loyal I’d been to him, he’d always been so quiet. And yet suddenly, there he was, sitting up on my bed and begging me to let him go.

    Everyone would be there, just everyone, he said. Everyone that ever was would be there. For certain.

    And I’d been so delighted to hear his voice- I mean, he’d even called me “daddy”- that straight away I’d packed up a basket, grabbed a rug, and brought him down to the woods.

    I went in disguise, of course, but they spotted me immediately. “Look, just go. He’ll be fine with all of us,” they said. They told me to come back at six o’clock to take him home. They said they’d all be tired by then.

    So I left. And I came back down to the woods a little early, hoping that I might be able to catch them unawares. To see them all beneath the trees and watch them gadding about; having a lovely time.

    But instead, I have come to find this. A scene of carnage and destruction. Of hiding places splintered and shredded apart; of polyester stuffing strewn across the ground like grotesque white snow.

    I look around frantically, until I see a familiar, biscuit-brown paw, sticking out from beneath a fern. Is it him?

    I grab the paw and pull. It’s him, though his other arm is missing, and his one remaining eye clings like a droplet of black oil to a long, hanging thread.

    I say his name. He is silent.

    I don’t know what happened here today.

    But it was no picnic.

  2. Unearthing

    Sam stumbled through the forest until he reached the Old Oak and found that the rumour was true; the storm had felled the ancient tree, shattering and uprooting it.

    Uncovering Maria.

    Kneeling beside her, Sam scraped at the dirt, exposing the cracked eggshell of her skull, the dirt packed sockets of her eyes, the humourless grin that we all sport, underneath.

    As he dug, he wondered if he had been set up, if the police had sent someone to the pub to mention the Old Oak, to see who came running, but he couldn’t stop. He worked her head free, handling her with far more care than he had shown last time he’d knelt there.

    He worked until the light faded, prying her bones from the dirt until his nails were torn and bloody and she lay in a disjointed pile. The space she left was little more than a shallow dip, and he ran his hand around it, searching for zippers and fillings, anything that remained to prove she’d been there.

    Something ripped the heel of his thumb and he swore, knelt further into the shadow of the Oak’s root bundle to see what he’d caught himself on.

    It was a hand, a tiny white hand poking from the loose soil. As he watched, the fingers flexed, perfect half moon fingernails glistening with his blood.

    He fought back a scream, somehow still worried that someone might find him there.

    The thing pulled itself loose, wriggled into the bowl of soil and rolled towards him, bloated grey flesh snagging on protruding stones. Grasping a femur from the bone pile, Sam smashed the creature, bursting it, releasing a fetid, fungal stink. He retched, eyes streaming, and almost missed the second one.

    The third was faster, and the wave that followed had no need of speed. They undulated over him, smothering him with sickly sweet baby flesh. Two more for every one that he broke, burst or hurled through the trees.

    Finally, when he fought no more, they rolled him into the dirt, pulled Maria’s bones in after him, then fell upon him, protecting him from the elements.

    A family at last.

    360 words

  3. In The Tanglewood

    We knew of its existence, of course. Still, I never thought to go there. Ever. No one does, unless there’s a ritual and there hasn’t been one for years. The sky is clear crystal as we gather, one by one, to bear witness. Ma’s hand holds me fast and tight at the wrist, as the community gather en masse, though her eyes are anchored to the floor. There are no excuses for a missed attendance; not even for the kids, whatever their age. I know this much.

    Phyll is there already, before us, a clear space about her, though her feet are anchored by branches and bracken to the arid dirt. They will not move again. Already, olive tendrils hide her toes from sight, circling both ankles. Dark dots cross her cheeks. Distance creates the mistaken impression of freckles and the dulled darkening of the once porcelain skin that of a summer tan. The colour creeps across her chin and upwards towards her nose; a two tone tinge of inexorable and gradual expansion. It will take time to spread completely, to take effect. Her eyes reach into the distance; beyond. She will not plead with Maister Martin; not before the assembled audience, not now, not at all. She knew she had self-sentenced when the metal hit home, as did we all.

    Her puckered lips are pursed as the breath escapes them. I know they will close completely before the end, when the petrification becomes more pronounced, as her fingers dessicate into driftwood. That this will cause her eyelids to close onto themselves, as she locks into place, though she will retain sentience until the process is complete. That will come later. I tell myself not so much so and hope I am right.

    I am the only one watching when Phyll’s by now bark-shot eyes lock onto mine. I cannot look away; I must not. I meet her gaze, strong and steady, as the others stand silent, eyes anywhere save for Phyll. I can do no less. I can do no more. My eyes hold hers. I watch, as she stands amongst the woodland which went before her. We wait.

    (360 words)


  4. Matters
    360 words

    I carefully avoid the jagged edges as I navigate around the broken tree. My boots sink into the wet ground around it, footsteps following me as I trail my fingers across the damaged wood where the roots were lifted from the ground when the trunk snapped. There’s no coming back from this.

    “When do you think it happened?” I ask him.

    “Does it matter?”

    “Wouldn’t you want your death to matter?”

    He’s silent for a moment, his strong presence so close behind me. “Do we get that option anymore? I just don’t want to turn into one of them.” I reach back, grabbing onto his hand not clutching his crossbow. He allows it for a second before gently pushing me away.

    “I’ll care if you die.”

    We share a look. His silence has never been a problem before, but here, beside this fallen creature, I see his struggle to let me know the thoughts flying across his mind. But then he pulls back. When he decides against displaying that supposed weakness.


    “It’s okay.” I turn away. He doesn’t need to see the light mist collecting in my eyes.

    A branch snaps nearby and both of us tense. “We should go.”

    I agree. It’s never wise to stay in one place too long out here. Not like that’s ever helped us, and it didn’t this time. It attacks from the side, and we don’t see it. Not until it’s too late. It’s snapping jaw and curling fingers hunt for its next meal as it knocks me to the ground.

    I can hear him. He’s yelling at my to hold on. To not give up. But it’s so hungry and determined as it bears down on me, fighting my tenuous hold as I fight for my life of gray and dead. He comes to my rescue. Like he always does. Sprinting forward and tearing it away, but it gets the better of him and he falls.

    “Run, Bee!”

    I unholster the gun I rarely ever use. I don’t even think I properly know how to shoot it. But it doesn’t matter as I aim. Because his life matters to me. Bang.

  5. The Foundling Tree
    Beth Deitchman
    353 words

    “Tell me a story,” I said as I nestled into my bed.

    “Which story would you like?” Aislin asked, a glimmer in her wide violet eyes.

    “The foundling tree!”

    “Of course.” She smiled and smoothed the hair back from my brow. “In the woods beyond the town where the veil between worlds is thin,” she began, “there stood a tree, tall, wide, and strong. In the summer its leaves whispered in the wind, casting shadows on the forest floor. In the winter its bare branches creaked and snapped, heavy with the snow. A hollow cave was carved into its trunk for the foundlings who appeared as if by magic.”

    “Magic!” I said.

    She held a finger to her pink lips. “One bright winter’s morning as I wandered in the men’s woods, I heard a cry coming from the foundling tree. Inside sat a bundle of blankets with a little red curl poking out.” Again she stroked my hair.

    “I crawled into the hollow so I could study this bundle. It was warm and close inside the tree. Then the bundle moved. I gazed into your face and knew I was lost.” Aislin smiled, her eyes far away. “I scooped you up and held you tight as I crawled out of the tree. But a man’s voice startled me. ‘Stop!’ he cried. ‘Put the royal child down!’

    “He threatened us with his sword. But I knew in my heart that you were mine, so I stamped on the ground and it obeyed, rolling away from me and knocking the man down. Then I ran, hounds snapping at my feet, you cradled against my breast. Behind us the man shouted again. A great light rent the sky and crashed into the tree, ripping it apart with a great crack. But we escaped.”

    She sat silently, smiling down at me. The air was heavy with echoes. “And that, my love, is how you came to live among us,” she said when the last echo faded. Then Aislin kissed me on the forehead and tucked me under the covers. I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

    • silvershrew says:

      Beth, you did it again. I now need to read two novels from you. Keep it up and you will have a long list of story lines to choose from when you sit down to write. I really want you to expand that first one I read…about the woman standing at the window.

  6. Communing With Nature

    Harold felt that he had found the perfect tree in which to climb. He could wedge himself into one of the crooks of these strong tree arms and commune with the woods, as required by all wizards from time to time.
    He began to climb.
    “Ah, hullo? This tree is taken, sir,” called a voice from above.
    Harold looked up. He could see wiry grey eyebrows and a long nose pointing down at him from beneath a bouffant purple hat.
    “Oh. I see,” Harold answered.
    He stood still for a moment. He really did think that this was the very finest tree in the whole forest. And he was a first rate wizard worthy of this clearly superior tree.
    “Here’s the thing, ya? This tree is really prime, so maybe you wouldn’t mind sharing,” he said, making it a statement rather than a question as he climbed up the trunk to the first limb.
    “I do mind! I do,” called the other man. Or wizard.
    “Yes, well…” Harold began, climbing still with no intent of stopping.
    “I was here first you ass! Here, have a cat,” he yelled and with a snick-pop kiss of sound a cat suddenly appeared and dropped onto Harold’s head.
    Definitely another wizard.
    Harold almost fell but peeled the terrified cat off of his head and placed it on a limb.
    “Here’s a panther for you,” Harold called up, pointing into the tree and snick-pop there was a velvety jungle cat sitting next to the other wizard.
    “Here’s a lion,” he called back.
    Back and forth the two accelerated, yelling over each other as they attempted to overwhelm the other into giving up the tree.
    “Here’s a rhino!”
    “Here’s a hippo!”
    “Here’s twin moose!”
    “Here’s a god damn grand piano!” yelled Harold.
    As it slammed onto the tree, atop the animals and two wizards there was a hideous cracking sound and the entire tree began to snap and splinter.
    Both men landed on the ground and the animals scattered, panicked and confused into the woods.
    “Best find another tree, yeah?”
    The men shook hands and walked away in opposite directions.

    358 words

  7. “Passed With Flying Levin”
    360 words

    Mia sat up, her head throbbing. The world was dark. Her aerobic rhythm crested after a dangerous trough. She shook, and tried to use the feverish motion to stand, yet the explosion of pain in her calves kicked her to the ground like a mule. The coldness of her eyes sent a shiver down her torso.

    “I’m blind,” said Mia. She clawed at her eyes with throbbing digits.

    Soft light descended from a thin canopy of leaves above. Trees emerged all around her, seeming to sprout from the ground in instantaneous maturity. Vibrant green moss rolled toward her from her peripherals. She frowned at the thick, coagulated crimson beneath her fingernails.

    Mia blinked away the visage of the forest’s creation. All was still and silent as a stone.

    “What happened?” Mia asked the crippled tree a pace beyond her calloused feet. It splintered in every imaginable direction and bent in both obtuse and acute angles. Long tendrils stretched out from its two-legged base, as if searching out a healer.

    A wave of nausea surged through Mia’s mind. The forest hazed for several moments as she vomited over her shoulder. When the fog cleared, she remembered.

    Even after a second failed attempt to stand, Mia smiled. “I passed,” she squealed.

    A twig cracked behind her and she turned around to spy a short man in a blue business suit creeping toward her. He held a monocle in front of one eye. “Mia,” he said, coughing.

    “Mister Emerson, I passed the Test.” Mia smoothed her yellow dress, beaming up at her teacher.

    Mister Emerson made a popping noise with his lips and looked up into the baby blue sky. “With flying colors. And levin,” he said. “You nearly sent me to my backside from fifty paces, milady.”

    “I have an Element at last.”

    “Why, yes, I must say you certainly do.” Mister Emerson stumbled over and knelt beside Mia, opposite her pool of vomit. “Lightning.”

    “I’ve always wanted lightning. Or fire. Or water. Oh, I just love them all.”

    “Well,” said Mister Emerson, lifting Mia from the ground as if she were an infant, “at least you didn’t burn the forest down.”

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