Flash Frenzy Round 34

Posted: September 6, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , , ,

Hello again, friends.

Welcome to Round 34. This week, David Shakes will be acting as our fearless judge.

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 TheShakes72

photo courtesy TheShakes72

  1. Sal Page says:

    Push off Creepy Dry Kid

    I’m hiding right at the back, all squished up and uncomfortable, waiting for that kid to stop peering at me. They make my stomach turn with their flat coloured eyes and that weird stuff they call hair. They’re so terribly dry too. Makes me shiver just thinking about it. He’d better push off soon. I’m off out to a fancy dress party tonight. Going as a slug. I’m hoping to pull one of those exotic Spanish slugs. I hear there’s thousands coming over. I’ll persuade her to come back here with me. A tight squeeze but fun. Plenty of slime.
    Push off creepy dry kid. How they manage without a good covering of slime is a complete mystery to me. Surely slime’s one of life’s necessities.

    126 words


  2. jbertetta says:

    Joshua Bertetta
    355 words

    “In the Beginning”

    People call me a liar. Some say it’s compulsive. To exacerbate the issue, the story I am about to tell you defies all reason. Trouble is, I have an eidetic memory and what I am about tell you is the truth.

    I promise.

    It all begin with an easy hike in the fall. It was in Olympic National Park, Washington. Lots of trees and mosses and ferns. Real green and wet. While in the forest, I like to go off trail, to find places where I can begin to imagine I am the only human being to have ever set foot.

    Well let me tell you, that day I went to a place I know no one has ever set foot.

    See, I found this shell. A gigantic shell. Like some alien nautilus shell. Trust me when I tell you it was big. So big in fact, I could stick my head inside. I heard the proverbial ocean and decided I’d like to go for a swim and I, being double-jointed and a contortionist, could fit my entire body inside. So I did.

    As you might expect, it was quite tight. If you’d seen it, you’d probably laugh at my feet dangling outside the shell’s mouth, kicking and flailing. But I made it, all the way inside.

    Then the unbelievable part happened. It was dark. Dark as space. And it was tight, as I said, but I was comfortable. So comfortable in fact, the space around me seemed to expand. I closed my eyes and breathed long and slow and deep.

    Then I fell through that space, that space in the shell, the space that spiraled and I spiraled as I fell. And fall I did. And some more until finally, I splashed into that ocean, that ocean in the middle of darkness. I had the feeling the water was fathomless. I was at peace.

    Remember, I have an eidetic memory and what I am about to tell you is the truth. I promise.

    There was a wind, a breath, then a voice.

    The voice said “Let there be light” and then there was light.

  3. Cathy Lennon says:


    ‘Ben,’ I say. He has taken his arms out of his coat sleeves, put the hood up and fastened the top popper. ‘Ben.’ Louder this time. He is being a superhero, or a fighter pilot, or a bird of prey. He circles a few times and I stand stock still, hands in my jeans pockets, pierced again by how precious and amazing he is. He comes to a stop beside me, pulls down his hood, wrestles his hands back in his sleeves.

    ‘What daddy?’ His eyes have the new watchful expression. That dark uncertainty that twists my heart.

    ‘What does that look like to you?’ I nod at the sculpture, the last along the trail we are exploring because, for once, it isn’t raining. It stands on end, a gleaming copper spiral on the forest floor. It’s more ram’s horn than snail shell and about ten times actual size and I wait to hear what a five year old will make of it. He goes up close and sticks his head into the opening.

    ‘Helloo!’ he shouts. ‘Can you hear me?’ He looks back at me. ‘I think there is a dragon down there. It lives in a cave under the ground and it breathes fire. Roooaaaarrr.’

    He’s seen dragons in everything today. ‘It’s even more exciting than that,’ I smile. ‘It’s an ammonite.’

    He repeats the word, mixing up the ‘m’ and the ‘n’ and we make it into a tongue twister until we are both giggling. Then I explain about fossils. About a living thing that died. About sediment and the passing of time. About the preservation of something that still has meaning, just in a different form. When his eyes cloud with bewilderment I stop myself. I ask him if he’s hungry. He asks for nuggets and chips.

    On the doorstep Kirsty barely meets my eye. Ben rushes in without a backward glance. ‘Same time next week?’ she says.

    I concentrate on geological time as I drive back to the flat. Then I stand with my key in the latch and listen very hard for dragons.

    (349 words)


  4. jbertetta says:

    I was there watching the story unfold as I read. Thanks for putting me in that place. 🙂

  5. milo says:

    A good deed? (360 words)


    While walking in the forest I come upon this large, spiral shaped shell, a nautilus shell I believe, and when I say large, I mean huge. A boy stands beside the shell. He is telling his father that he wants to climb into it. His father tells him not to be stupid. The boy starts to cry. His father tells him it is stupid to cry. The boy does all the same.
    The father then pushes the shell over. The boy asks the father why he has done that. The father tells the boy it is to stop stupid kids like him trying to climb into it.
    Now the shell is flat on the floor I notice a strange thing. I notice it’s not actually a shell at all but rather a spiral staircase that leads down into the ground. The father sees this too and tells the boy that they are going down to investigate, that there may be something of value at the base of those strange stairs. The boy says that he is scared, because it looks dark down where the stairs lead. The father tells him not to be so stupid and get his arse down the stairs. The boy starts to cry again. The father cuffs him around the ear and tells him that he can remain behind alone, and that he couldn’t care less if wolves come and eat the boy up. The father starts down the stairs and disappears from sight.
    The boy stands and looks after his departed father, tears still running down his cheeks. Then he bends and grasps the edge of the stairs and heaves with all his might. I see what he is trying to do, and I know he lacks the strength to do it alone, so I go over and stand beside him. He looks up at me with grateful eyes. I stoop and grab the edge of the stairwell. We pull it up together and stand the shell upright.
    The boy says thank you, and hurries away into the woods.
    I look at the shell for a few more minutes and then I head for home.

    • Mark A. King says:

      I like the way the story is told, it’s almost blunt and factual, which suits the narrator. Especially, with the title of the story and that hanging question mark. Good deed????

      • milo says:

        Thank you for your comments. I do like to write in a stripped down style. I tend to shy away from descriptive prose, but that may just be because I don’t write it well.

  6. voimaoy says:

    The boy with the beautiful mind
    359 words

    Once he understood the metaphorical nature of the world, he could see the patterns everywhere—shards of fractured reality, the sun on the thread of a spider web.

    “Joshua has problems with focus,” the teacher said. Worried parents uncomfortable in dress-up clothes. “He’s so easily distracted. He doesn’t work up to his potential.”

    “Do you?” the mother said. “Do any of us, all the time?” The father tried to calm her, but she was fierce defending her son, their son. “Joshua is a good boy. He’s not like the others.”

    The three grown-ups avoided talking about the mystery that had befallen their little town those September nights 6 years ago, when the comet filled the sky. After the comet, there had been the rain of frogs. Then, the proliferation of garden snails. The unexpected pregnancies. The precocious offspring, each different, but each possessing an unusual talent. Joshua was one of them.

    The teacher sighed. “You have a point. That’s why I would like you to consider meeting with Dr.Shimizu. She’s an expert in languages. She’s been working with the inuit groups, you know.”

    “We’re not talking about snow, here.” the father said. ” he’s a dreamer, not a poet.”

    “She can help him find the words,” the teacher said.

    Joshua studied the pattern in the linoleum. He couldn’t tell them about the words in the walls, the voices he could almost make out amid the roar of static.

    There were three he could hear more clearlly than the others. One was a rumbling bass soumd, the second a lilting baritone. The third was high and trilling, a song he couldn’t identify.

    He had only recently learned their names–Lemmis, Shoshostra, Tetuatl.

    In his mind, he could picture them–Lemmis, short and burly with flashing eyes and a big black beard. Golden Shoshostra, with long braids and a flowing white dress. Tetuatl was tall and skinny, with a head like a giant bird.

    And he understood, all but the words, that he was like them, like them.

    In his dreams he was with them, arm in arm in arm, walking down the wide boulevard of a bright new city, the lights a line of green.

  7. Ranee Parker says:


    I know how this looks. Once again little Teddy got his head stuck in something. And, wow, will my mom be mad if I don’t get out of here before she gets home. The last time I got stuck in something she went completely nuts! If you ask me, she worries too much. I’m a boy with a curious nature. Is that so bad?

    My mom says curiosity kills the cat, but I’d rather get my head stuck in this giant shell and maybe discover something cool than go through life never wondering what’s in it. Curiosity is what fuels me. Some kids play video games or soccer for fun, but not me. I like to explore, and the woods behind my house is a great place for that.

    I find lots of cool things in my adventures. Maybe some day I’ll write a book about them. I’ll call it Teddy’s Big Adventures! I bet people would like to read that. Not my mom, probably, but other people. My mom would shake her head and say, “How could you do all those crazy things! You could have gotten hurt!”

    Last week I got stuck in between the stair balusters. I was sure my head was small enough to fit in between them. And it was! But then maybe my head swelled while I was in there or something because I couldn’t get out. My mom tried putting butter around my ears but it didn’t work. My dad had to get a saw and cut me out. Boy was he mad! I got sent to my room after that.

    Anyhow, you’re probably wondering how I ended up here. On my walk for adventure today I discovered this giant shell. Where did it come from? What was in it? I had to look inside! But I sort of wish I hadn’t gone in quite so far. It’s dark and it smells bad. I thought it would make a funny hat, but it’s too heavy to lift and now I’m stuck. I’ll get out of here somehow. I always do. Just don’t tell my mom you saw me, okay?

    (356 words)


  8. streetej says:

    The Spore
    357 words

    The spore soars through the cold, dark vacuum of space, seeking a home. It will adapt its new host; such powers are programmed into it. It searches for elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Especially nitrogen.

    The spore finally catches a likely planetary field. Down, down, it falls through a young and starlit sky. Down, down, it burrows. It revels in the moist earth, nestling beneath dead leaves, humus, and soil. In the quiet it waits, vibrating, too full of potential energy to abide perfect stillness.

    Sunlight heats the earth as spring arrives. The warmth penetrates deeply, waking subterranean organisms. Worms and millipedes do their magic, gnawing dirt, changing detritus into the fuel of life. The other creatures do not touch the spore. Its strangeness assaults their senses, and they fear it.

    Leeching nutrients from the soil, the spore grows, first outwards, threading a vast fungus web beneath the ground as far as the land extends. Then it digs up, up through each soil horizon, tunneling for the light in endless thrusting sprouts.

    The spore extrudes a million fleshy, chambered spirals above the ground, mapped in the universal code of the golden mean. Through these chambers it expels the nitrogen gas it has manufactured in its underground web. It prepares the foreign planet for others of its kind.


    Kelley likes dirt, but his mother always scolds him when she catches him eating it. He sneaks into the woods during a picnic, searching for a new flavor to try.

    In a clearing carpeted with dead leaves, Kelley finds a large, upright shell. It smells like tasty dirt. He licks the velvety exterior, recoiling at the sharp bitter tang.

    If he puts his head inside the opening, he wonders, will he hear the sea, as with shells he finds at the beach? Kelley leans into the maw.

    The spore senses all its spiraled limbs. It knows when an oxygen-loving creature, a competitor for atmosphere, probes an airway. At any invasion the spore exhales pure, inert nitrogen through every orifice.

    Kelley feels no pain as he inhales and collapses. He is only the first to fall this way.

  9. Choices
    280 Words

    Darkness had arrived and dinner passed by the time Aaron arrived back home alone.
    The police were called and Aaron retold the same tale to them as he had to his parents.
    A bronze swirling shell that called out to them.
    The strange mix of the scent of honey and roses that promised something inviting and limitless. Watching Melena’s feet disappear into the shell as she said, “Thank you for inviting me”.

    He promised his parents, and then the police that he had stuck his head in after to see where she had gone but whatever door had been opened to her was not available to him.
    As his parents wept and became angry at his insistence that this was the truth the police repeatedly asked about people he may have seen near by, or following close on their way to the woods. Aaron wanted to make them happy, to tell them the right answer but couldn’t make out how to do so and began to cry instead.

    “Missing Child” posters hung from telephone poles and Melena’s paper face smiled out at those who passed by store windows.
    They eliminated “lost in the woods” and struggled to answer “taken by whom?”.
    Ultimately, she was lost to her parents and the world at large.

    A child can not know that they are a part of a parent’s heart, vulnerable and necessary, living outside the parent’s body. A child does not understand that sometimes what they seek is selfish in how it will break another’s heart.
    If you had asked Melena she would have explained that she was not a lost child.
    She had chosen this adventure.
    She knew exactly where she was.

  10. Image Ronin says:

    The Silence

    Leo’s boots parted the damp leaves that cloaked the forest floor, the heady aroma of rain and decay filling his senses. A crow, ink feathers flexing, looked down from a branch, its beak opening and closing in tranquility. Leo was tempted to launch a stick at the bird that surveyed his progress with malevolent beady eyes.

    The ground slowly ascended under his feet, trees fading away with each upward step till Leo found himself stood in the clearing. He ran his fingers over the rain-beaded surfaces of the statues. She had fashioned them, vague memories stirred of being with her in the workshop, sunlight on her face as she tousled his hair. Under his touch bronze gave way to wood, wood to steel, steel to bluish-green stone, wonderful beings that he had always wanted to believe had just grown out of the ground.

    A hand grasped Leo’s shoulder, his father smelling of cigarettes and deodorant, face crimson with the effort of keeping up. Leo watched his father mutter something into the silence, gesturing across the horizon to birds cutting across the sky. His hair, once a fiery red had cooled into a winter that reached down towards a collar yellowed by familiarity. Leo watched him write something on the pad that eternally hung around his neck.


    Leo nodded, giving him a thumbs up. His father seemed satisfied, kneeling down, clearing dead leaves from a small bronze seedpod. Leo didn’t need to stay to know that when satisfied his father would leave a single red rose at the statue’s base, as he did each year.

    Leo headed the other way towards his favourite whose plaque declared it The Lion’s Roar, his father had told him it was an odd name for an ammonite. Yet he was never present on those days when Leo would sit beside her on the beach, listening to the sea roaring within shells, the sweet scent of salt in her hair, her laughter chasing away the gulls.

    A time before his world fell silent.

    Leo slipped his head inside the ammonite, holding his breath, focusing everything on the darkness.

    Hoping that today the waves would return.

    360 words


  11. Jacki Donnellan says:


    She is easy to spot. There is her obliviously cheerful coat; there is the unsuspecting contentment in her gaze.

    “Hi,” I say, as I fall into place beside her at the bus stop.

    She turns toward me. A puzzled frown flickers briefly between her otherwise untroubled eyes before she smiles absently, and looks away.

    “What if,” I say to her quickly, “you don’t get on the bus today?”

    The number 6 rumbles and huffs to a halt beside us.

    “You could walk your son to school instead,” I suggest, urgently now, as the bus doors swing open.

    Her reply is clear, even though she says nothing. “He’s fourteen! He doesn’t need walking to school.”

    The words are like fossils in the walls of my mind.

    She jumps onto the bus.

    I don’t bother following her.

    Instead I join her for breakfast.

    “Eat up, love,” she says. She places an affectionate hand on his shoulder as she moves past him to the sink. “You’ll be late for school.”

    He doesn’t hear.

    He’s wearing his headphones, turned up loud, the way he loves to do. His music drowns out her voice. Just as it will drown out the speeding car, the warning shouts, the screech of brakes…

    He doesn’t hear!” I scream, my voice like rock.

    She is laughing now. She’s pushing her favourite dolly in a swing at the park. She has a future; she is happy.

    I’m sitting on top of the helter-skelter. I can’t resist. “Wheee!” I cry, pushing off and slipping down the spiralling slide.

    By the time I reach the bottom, she isn’t pushing the swing any more.

    She is in the woods, curled around and curled up into a ball. Her face isn’t visible, but I know that it is hard and grooved.

    “That’s right,” I am whispering softly. “Yes, that’s better. No need to come out. Keep going. Go further; go deeper. Go back.”

    I feel a shudder. I look up, and I can see the number 6 bus in the distance.

    I stand up and begin running. Back to the bus stop. I can see her.

    She is easy to spot.

    358 words

  12. Unexpected Item In The Forest Area

    ‘Woah! Look!’ Sam pointed, and ran ahead.

    As they followed, weaving through the trees, the glimpses of pale pink and mysterious folds resolved into an enormous shell. It rested on the fallen leaves, gleaming like a pearl in the watery sunlight. 

    ‘Oh!’ Mum consulted her map. ‘No-one mentioned a sculpture trail.’ 

    Dad peered at the shell, and knocked on it gently. ‘I think it’s real. But how did it get here?’

    Sam stood on tiptoe and peered into the shell’s mouth. ‘I can’t see anything in there…hello? HELLOOOOOOO!’ Sound rang through the forest, drowning the rustling leaves. ‘It looks like an ammonite! We did shellsandfossils last year and Miss Dougal said they were from the time of the dinosaurs! Maybe if I went right into it, I’d turn into a super-snail and go back and fight the dinosaurs with my special powers and have an army of T-Rexes! Rrarrrgh!’ He stretched his arms out and ran in and out of the trees. ‘Nneeeeeeoooooww! Super Snaaaaiiiilllll!’

    ‘But it isn’t a fossil, it’s real…’ Mum got her phone out of her bag and took a photo. ‘I’d Google it, but I don’t have a signal… I wonder if we need to tell someone about it. You’re very quiet, Lily, what do you think of it?’

    Lily stood a little way away from the shell, looking. She touched it with her fingertip. She stroked the smooth curves. She stretched her arms round the shell as far as they would go and laid her cheek against it. ‘Lovely shell’ she whispered.

    The shell sighed, and relaxed.

    266 words

  13. […] Also submitted for Flash Frenzy Round 34 (see the rules at this link) […]

  14. Math Dreams by Maryann Holloway
    200 Words
    I recommending reading the story on my blog as there are some images that go with the story.

    “Do you remember your dreams?” said Steve.

    “I’m in the grotto at the Playboy mansion,” chuckled Frank.

    “I’m serious. For the last few weeks I’ve been having two recurring dreams nightly.”

    “Go on. I’m intrigued.”

    “In one, I’m looking upon a grassy field that backs up to a woods. In the middle of the field there is a child with her head stuck inside a large shell. I think it is a shell. It is very large and shaped like this,” said Steve as he gestured in a spiral with his hand.

    “And the other dream?”

    “There is a set of carpeted stairs and I’m holding a ruler. Nothing else happens. I’m looking at the stairs, holding the ruler and I’m anxious.”

    Frank began to chuckle and said, “You’re having math dreams.”


    “After tomorrow, you and Judy will be the proud owners of a home and a $400,000 mortgage. It has you anxious.”

    Steve looked puzzled.

    “The shell is the fibonacci sequence and the staircase is geometry.”

    “You had these dreams?”

    “For me it was quadratic equations displayed in odd places. The dreams went away once I accepted that I was employed and could easily make the mortgage payments.”

  15. Carlos Orozco says:

    351 words

    “I wouldn’t wander too far off; there are giant man-eating worms in the forest, Zee.”

    “You’re such a liar, Dad.”

    “If I’m a liar what’s that.” In the distance stands a large ammonite shell. Oddly enough, it looks natural in its surroundings. The sculptor went to great lengths making it look ordinary in the forest.

    “That’s not a worm, it’s just a statue.”

    “That’s what the worm wants you to believe. That’s how it tricks its prey into getting close enough to attack.”

    “You’re not scaring me.”

    “That’s exactly what your older brother said to me before it ate him.”

    “I don’t have an older brother.”

    “Because the worm got him.”

    “Not true. You’re trying to scare me. I’ll prove to you I’m not scared. I’m going to stick my head in its mouth.”
    Zee ran up to the front of the sculpture. He waved to me then stuck his head in the opening. I snapped a picture.

    “See I told you.” Zee’s voice sounded muffled, coming from inside the shell.

    “Well aren’t you the courageous one. What do you see in there?”


    “That’s because it’s a spiral. When looking into a spiral you can only see as far as the bend. Come look at the side now. This is how far you saw, but now we can see every turn, every bend, down to the end. See how beautiful that is. I know you probably won’t understand, but that’s life. Sometimes we can’t see the point of it when we are looking straight ahead; we need to step out and see the whole picture. The whole is what’s worth looking at.”


    “Dad, how are you.”

    “I’ve been better.”

    “You look great Dad.”

    “You’re such a liar,” he says with a smile. We both laugh for a bit.

    “Are you scared?”
    “A little.”

    “You shouldn’t be scared of this. You should be scared of the man-eating worm.” We laugh again.

    “There are no worms here, Zee.”

    “I brought you one.” I give him a small ammonite fossil. “Don’t bother looking straight into it. The outside is what’s worth looking at.”

  16. zevonesque says:

    The Lost Echo
    by A J Walker

    A man had shouted at Danny as he walked over the field, ‘The woods are a dangerous place boy. Keep to the paths and no account touch the sculptures.’

    Daniel looked at him, ‘The sculptures?’

    ‘Aye, sculptures. Keep away from them.’

    This made Danny feel this was an adventure and the words rang in his ears as he now walked past the strange sculptures in the copse. There was a giant rose bush with eerie glowing metal buds; a bicycle made of tin cans and razor blades; and the most amazing spiral staircase, which wound up toward the canopy made from steps sticky with some sort of mucus which dripped with a hissing noise on to the leaf litter below. There was no danger of him touching these. He wondered at who had created them.

    As he pushed past a holly bush he came across a metal ammonite almost the same height as him. It was beautiful and unlike the others it didn’t look creepy, so he couldn’t help himself when he began to touch it. When nothing bad happened he continued to stroke across the smooth chambers, feeling the flow of nature recreated by man. He traced inward following the spiral to the centre.

    He looked into the chamber opening and shouted into it. The echo echo. It rattled around and came back to him seemingly seconds later. It was fun fun.

    Daniel held the edge of the ammonite and shouted as loud as he could and it rattled back at him louder still. He put his head into the pitch black chamber. He shouted and the sound was deafening. He felt he was in a giant cave. Not a scale replica of an extinct sea creature.

    He tried to pull back his head, then he heard something click. A mechanism started to wind up. His head was stuck fast, his ears rammed against the side. He felt panic rise as the mechanism grew louder. It seemed to be getting to an end point. He wondered if ammonites were supposed to have teeth.

    The mechanism stopped and Daniel cried out into the chamber. This time there was no echo.

    (360 words)

    • Mark A. King says:

      AJW – I love this. The middle part (and the repeated words) reminds me of an award winning SF novel from last year that I loved. Great tension building towards the awesome ending. Congratulations.

  17. C Connolly says:

    Running The Gauntlet

    They will be there, waiting. They always are. Leaning casually against the lockers at intervals along the corridor – wanting – needing – Mark to run their gauntlet. Instead, he is crawling towards the group of guys standing between him and his exit into a world beyond theirs, within these walls.

    “Div!” Whispered words, tone low; still he hears them as he passes Daz, the first of them. Already, he is retreating into himself, head tucked hidden, a small shouldered curling, feet sliding forwards, as though sticky substances seemingly glue them to the ground underfoot. He feels them threatening to pull him in; to consume him with what they see. He tells himself he cannot – will not – be devoured by their daily lessons in diminishing.

    “Spaz!” Louder, as he walks passed Chris avoiding eye contact, then Mark is on his hands and knees, fingers outspread to catch himself, as his feet are out and from under him in one swift motion and he is feeling the friction burns on his skin; the dull ache in his leg in the aftermath of its initial contact with the floor. His right ankle is a separate, competing sting. Water threatens to spill and blur from his eyes. He holds it in, heaving – in, out.

    Suddenly, they are circled surrounding him, silent, whilst he sprawls stunned on the cold tile, red stains from his grazes marking the otherwise ivory white, the broken frames of his glasses to his side.

    “See ya later, Specs!” Joe says, pointing into his face, he thinks, and they are turning en masse, walking away whooping with one another, leaving Mark to catch and calm his breath, which is still racing through his chest, along with the thud of his heart.

    Mark breathes, eyes suddenly – thankfully – shut, constructing the layers of himself again from scratch, building them, bit by bit, concentric spiralling forwards, upon each other, as best he can, whilst he remains closeted within darkness, keeping out external threats.

    Finally, he raises himself to his feet, with them steady beneath him, surface shell restored. One day he will build layers such that they can’t hurt him anymore.

    (360 words)


  18. drmagoo says:

    The old turtle had told Warren to look inside himself for answers, but it hadn’t told him how. He tried that night with the X-Ray specs he’d ordered from Amazing Tales magazine, but all he saw were some blurry bumps that could have been – might have been – bones. Or blood vessels. He tried the next day in school, but his hand didn’t really fit in the microscope. That weekend, he tried using the mirror in the bathroom, with the flashlight he’d stolen from his father stuck in his mouth. But the flashlight tasted like dirt and plastic, and he couldn’t see anything with his head tilted back like that.

    Warren couldn’t as his mother for the answer. Boys didn’t talk to their mothers about things like this, and he didn’t know where she was, anyway, having left home one day to go to the store and not come back. He also knew he couldn’t ask his father. His father was why Warren had gone to find the old turtle in the first place, out in the woods behind the mill, that day when he’d skipped school to let the bruises on his face heal just a bit.

    It was cold and wet on the day that Warren went back to the woods. He didn’t know where the answer was, but he knew he had to find it today, or he might not make it to tomorrow. The turtle was gone, because that was how things like this worked, although there had to be more than one kind of magic in the world, right?

    When darkness came, Warren laid down under the branches of an evergreen. He was cold and sore and wet, but in his dreams, he felt no pain, and had no welts, had no bruises. The sun coming in from the east warmed him, and he woke up to see the snail. Warren had never met the snail, but he knew who it was, and when the snail retracted inside its shell, he climbed up to look into its depths.

    As he felt his fingers wrap around the cold steel, Warren knew the old turtle had been right.

    360 words

  19. Amy Wood says:

    The Price of Fame
    353 words

    Leaves crunched and crackled as I walked over to the giant fake fossil thingy stuck in the middle of the woods. I licked my lips and cautiously peered into the top of it. What was it they’d said? Oh yeah, look scared. No problem.

    “Cut,” the director called. He sounded cross. Oh dear.

    “What’s up?” my dad asked from the side of the clearing.

    “Nothing, nothing,” the director said, tugging at his wispy hair. “It’s just…your boy’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s all too wooden. He’s not relaxed and it shows.”

    “Of course it shows,” Dad growled. “He’s eight and this is his first acting job, what do you expect?”

    The director rubbed his nose, then shrugged. “Okay, we’ll go again but I gotta tell you, if we can’t get something better from your boy, we’ll have to look for a replacement.”

    I stared at my trainers, the giddy excitement of earlier crashing into ice-cold seas of despair. I’d messed up and everyone was cross. I’d never be any good as an actor.

    Dad waved at me and gave me a determined thumbs up. I managed a weak smile in reply.


    The film bombed but somehow my career didn’t. Fifteen tense, worry-filled years and a string of highly-lauded indie productions later, I sat in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, sandwiched between Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.

    Something hit me in the pit of my stomach as my name was read out as that year’s Best Actor.

    My dad wasn’t there to see it. A stress-induced heart attack had stolen him away from me. My most ardent supporter and the only person I’d ever loved. He’d said I could win an Oscar, had had absolute faith in me.

    I wanted him to see me, wanted to thank him in person. But he wasn’t there. I climbed the steps and accepted my statuette with a smile which hid my tears.

    Back at home, after the parties and endless champagne, I put the Oscar on a shelf and never looked at it again. It’d come at far too high a price.

  20. […] Prompt: https://theangryhourglass.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/flash-frenzy-round-34/comment-page-1/ […]

  21. Jeffrey in the Woodland

    Peaseblossom watched a leaf scutter across the fairy road. Silently, Mustardseed urged her along. She sighed and obeyed.

    When they neared the clearing, a crack sounded, followed by a muffled, “Ow!” Peaseblossom smiled as the little boy clambered feet first from the strange whirls of Puck’s latest project. His chubby legs dangled, but with a clunk and a crash, his feet found the path, and he shimmied the rest of his body free. Jeffrey smiled at the fairies, his round cheeks pink.

    “You were supposed to dispose of that monstrosity,” Mustardseed snapped. “Our mistress will not look kindly on your failure!”

    “It’s such a lovely thing,” Peaseblossom protested.

    “But look what it discharged! Again!”

    Jeffrey waved a chubby hand. “Hi!” he shouted. “I came back!”

    “That you did.” Mustardseed cast an accusatory glance Peaseblossom’s way. “Stay here.”

    Peaseblossom invited the mortal child forward. He trundled over; she took his sticky hand. “I’m glad you’re back, Jeffrey,” she whispered.

    Mustardseed scoffed before disappearing.

    “Mom told me to go outside and play but I said it was too cold then she did that thing where she rubs her head and says oh Jeffrey and then told me to put on a coat so I did and I found the tree stump and came here—” He drew a breath.

    Music filled the air. “Peaseblossom!”

    The fairy tightened her grip on Jeffrey’s hand. “My Lady.” She curtsied. “My Lord.”

    “That child has returned?” Oberon favored his wife with a sly smile. “He’s all yours.”

    Titania shook her head. “Oh no you don’t!”

    “I insist; it’s your turn.”

    Titania ignored her husband. “Return him to his mother.”

    Peaseblossom regarded the child sadly. “Come along, Jeffrey.” With a whispered spell, she brought him home. “Bedtime,” she said.

    “I’m not—” Jeffrey yawned—”tired!”

    Peaseblossom tucked him into his covers and kissed his forehead. “Sleep well, my dear. You will remember us only in dreams.” Jeffrey’s eyelids fluttered, his breath softened. Peaseblossom turned to go, then looked back at the sleeping child. She pulled a delicate blossom from her headdress and laid it on Jeffrey’s pillow before vanishing. In his sleep, Jeffrey reached for the flower.

    360 words

  22. Marie McKay says:

    Hello, Percival! That’s a great name you have. That’s right, it is me, over here, talking. Would you come over and see me, for a moment, Percival? Come on, Little Chap, right over.
    Yes, that’s right, over here. Aren’t you a clever boy!
    Now, I’ve got something for you to listen to. You’ll have to get on to your tippy toes to hear. It’s only a whisper. That’s it. Right up. Come closer ….Did you hear that time? No? Oh, well, come in a little closer. Tuck your head right in.

    Hello, Courtney. What a pretty name! That’s right. It’s me over here. Come on over.
    I have something I want you to hear. You’ll have to go on your tippy toes so you can hear them…

    (127 words)

  23. Next Time

    Maisie ambled through the forest, cooing happily at the birds, trees and sky. Following, watching that she didn’t stray into the stinging nettles, marvelling at her boundless energy, Martin smiled sadly and wondered how much longer she would live.

    He hated himself for thinking it, but he couldn’t hide from it any longer; she was all that kept him there. His relationship with Pia was over almost before the tests came back, and the intervening decade had only added more distance. His one hope of escape was the shortened lifespan the doctors had promised him when they chose to carry on to term.

    “Dadda! Squiggle!”

    Maisie shrieked excitedly and crashed into the underbrush, chasing a flash of grey through the emerald.


    He ran after her, then slowed to a half-hearted jog.

    An accident.

    Would Pia believe him? It was plausible, and would it even matter so long as he was out?

    He paused, listening. The forest hung heavy with expectant pain. Birds called in the boughs, a Greek chorus mocking him from on high.

    Then a distorted scream rang out.

    The birds took flight.

    And he ran.

    Maisie was wedged in the mouth of a great metal shell, her whole head caught, straining on tiptoes to relieve the pressure on her neck. Her screams echoed through the spiral sculpture and Martin almost stumbled at the sight, so like the rotten, slithering gene coiled inside him.

    But he didn’t fall; he ran to her, lifted her till her head slipped free, then fell back onto the grass and hugged her close. She sobbed and snotted and drooled on him, but he didn’t care and he held her anyway.

    Slowly, falteringly, her cries subsided at last, and when she saw the tiny grey face peering over the rim of the shell at her, she almost broke free again, but Martin held her back.

    “Let the squirrel go baby. You won’t catch him.”

    She frowned at him, trying to process this information, then smiled broadly.

    “Nestime dadda?”

    Martin smiled back, thumbed away a trail of snot from her upper lip and wiped it on his sleeve.

    “Sure Maisie-May. Next time.”

    360 words

    • Mark A. King says:

      I love the internal conflict of the father. I love the contrast between rich and beautiful words and harsh and blunt words. I wouldn’t want to be the judge. Incredible standards, as usual. Well done.

  24. Mark A. King says:

    359 Words

    …hide from the wooden hill, and the blunt edges of every step that I have been thrown down.
    …hide when he drinks, hide when he doesn’t, hide when I’m the object he kicks, punches and humiliates.
    …hide in the dark places in my head, for there are no places to hide in reality.
    …hide inside this house. I cannot leave for fear of others seeing bruises my skin, or cuts that weep and draw unwanted attention.
    …hide from the lawn in the back. Afraid that a bundle of bones will rise from the earth; that my miscarried child will ask why I didn’t protect him.

    And…the house windows watch like eye-witnesses that won’t speak.
    And…the curtains hang like ragged limbs.
    And… the mould-spore walls talk, rasping infection.
    And…he says “you’ll never leave me.”
    And…”you are dirty.”
    And… “forgive me. I didn’t mean it. I will get help. I’ll never lay a hand in anger on you again.”
    And…”you won’t use that knife, you’re my woman and I will punish you.”
    And… I know he is wrong. So wrong. For I will do anything. I will…

    …seek to protect my unborn child, its heartbeat strong and growing inside me.
    …seek to share the beauty of an untainted world with my baby, yet born.
    …seek to play in the woods and listen to the hush of the wind and the tranquil lullaby of a woodland stream.
    …seek to lay with my child and do nothing but listen to it inhaling and exhaling under the shaded canopy of woodland.
    …seek a house — no — a home, a place of protection, a sanctuary, a place of nurture and growth and laughter.
    …seek a garden with no bones, there will be places he can play, among the fairies and gnomes, the colours of autumn, colors of oxidized copper, there will be magical tunnels and hollowed out trees and ornamental creatures he can hide in.
    …seek to leave now while this animal sleeps the deep and limitless sleep of someone walking the abandoned wastelands of grey. Now he can only hurt us in nightmares. And we will walk in colour.

    I hide.



  25. Gavin Parish says:

    Empty Shells
    by @GavinParish
    360 words

    The oddly shaped shell was no larger than Mary’s hand, yet bigger than most others she found washed up on the shoreline. It was smooth and shiny on one side, coarse and bumpy on the other, with one large hole and five smaller openings. She kept it because it was different, unique, even. Then a week later she found another, but twice the size, and she started to feel nervous.

    A third week passed, and this time the shell on the beach was as large as her faithful terrier, Buddy, who disappeared without trace in the days that followed. Her tiny island retreat no longer felt safe with her friend and protector gone. It felt smaller still when the next shell appeared, four feet high and twice as wide.

    The boat from the mainland was due in another week’s time, bringing correspondence and provisions, and the hope of rescue. She longed for the sight of other people, no longer content with life as a virtual recluse. Her humble little stone and thatch cottage felt claustrophobic and brittle as she counted down the days remaining.

    The nights were worst. The sound of the sea was no longer soothing to her and she only found herself imagining other noises, scuttling, slithering, creeping ever nearer in the dark. On the last night, she barely slept, but when she did it was not for long. With the early dawn there came a tremor that shook the walls and rained down dust on her where she cowered beneath the sheets.

    When she dared to peek outside, she did not have to look far for the cause of her alarm. Bigger even than the cottage, the shell was nestled up against the north wall putting pressure to bear as cracks formed on the wall’s surface.

    She ran down to the small jetty, eager to put distance between herself and it. Floating in the water, she saw driftwood, a lifebuoy; the remains of some doomed vessel. She sat down resignedly as her cottage collapsed behind her.

    On the nearby beach, she saw an oddly shaped shell no larger than her hand, and a hundred more like it.

  26. Gavin Parish says:

    Oops – it’s only now that I’ve written and posted the thing that I’ve realised it was last week’s contest – that’ll teach me! Good luck to all those who were paying attention!

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