Flash Frenzy Round 37

Posted: September 27, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

It was a long climb (at least for me), but we all survived another week! Your reward is Round 36, to be judged by the masterful Karl A. 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. dara40 says:

    Ascending
    223 words
    http://daraswriting.wordpress.com/

    Looking out over the beauty of the landscape
    She wondered what was at the top of the staircase
    She had stopped on the landing to look out over the water
    A salty breeze was blowing, she could taste it
    She feared what was at the top of the stairs
    She had been warned the stairs led to another dimension
    She didn’t believe such things, but she was curious
    She slowly ascended the stairs, one at a time
    Cautiously, fearfully, she stepped on each step
    Waiting but a moment before taking the next step,
    Until, she had made it to the top, “What’s this?” she wondered
    A door in the side of the hilltop with an inscription, she could not read
    It was a language not known to her and seemed to be not of this world

    Brow sweating, beads of stinging water dripping in her eyes, she
    decided she must see what’s on the other side
    Slowly, she turned the doorknob; heart pounding loudly
    The door unlatched; guardedly, she pushed the door open
    She saw nothing but light, then stepped inside
    It appeared she was on the other side of the world, where she was greeted by
    a long gone familiar face… her mother
    “Mom?” How can this be? You’ve been gone for years!
    “Welcome, my child, to the other side of life.”

  2. Craig Sinclair says:

    Climb

    Van Diem fought his way up the first one-thousand steps in suffocating heat under a thick cloak of darkness, the summit a seemingly impossible myth. He heard murmurs and crispy thin-throated voices on the second – ill-wishers from another plane descending to spur his failure – but he was unafraid. By the third his legs gave up and he cursed them softly as they staggered on, fawn-like bones raising a moribund sack of organs further towards the inhospitable truth. All other flights on the brutally punishing staircase were crawled on hands and knees in a state of raw delirium, blood-caked and naked, a former man now reduced to a single wretched act, a single puny verb.

    As morning exploded in the sky above him he finally reached the peak of the mountain. There was no sense of achievement, no inner fanfare as he dragged his ragged rack of a form over the final stair. He’d completed his task – arrived at the end of his life truly aware of the hardship he’d spent forever complaining about – lost keys, traffic jams and slow connections, spurned affections and broken china, it all paled into nothingness now.

    His first thought at this astonishing pivotal moment was: ‘How do I get back down?’

    And so he died there having learned nothing.

    214 words
    @craigsinclair

  3. joshbertetta says:

    Josh Bertetta
    C.R.A.S.H
    360 words
    @JBertetta

    Even though your heard is roaring in your ears you can hear the stairs creak as if you are hurting them and, looking around you, you see the trees swaying in the wind, feel the old rain drip drip dripping on your face and you wonder, as the boughs sigh, if they are mirroring your pain, or if they are only now catching their breath after a good long laugh, a trunk-aching laugh, the kind of laugh you do when you see a sight so sad and sorry that you can’t help but point at the object of your derision and I know they’re pointing at me as I take the steps, the steps toward the rickety old observation deck where this bald asshole under his stupid umbrella is taking pictures, pictures with which he, who probably knows what happened to you here, will also probably put his “stellar black and whites” on the net so everyone with sadistic devouring eyes can gobble up the images he’ll probably white-wash with names like “Ocean Overlook” or “Waves on the Beach Crashing” or maybe just even “Crash” because he, while he knows what really happened here (it was in all the papers) doesn’t want to make known sick fascination known to every other person out there with a sick fascination, the voyeurs who, while safe behind their computer screens scanning the world for the bad news so they can make themselves feel better, so they can tell themselves that their lives aren’t as bad off as others, those others, those peoples consumed by the millions who have homes and electricity and the money to pay for their computers and their internets, who cozy themselves up in the warm white glow, feeling safe from harm, like nothing as bad as this, as what happened to me, will happen to them, looking over pictures of places like these overlooking the coast, pictures like these from this very same place upon which this asshole takes his thousands of photos, this very same place where I picked up my phone when my husband called and I listened to him scream, “Come right away Sarah, Harry’s drowning!”

    • joshbertetta says:

      Oops! First line should read “heart” not “heard.” Darn it.

    • Mark A. King says:

      Hey Josh. Working with structure this week? It works well for the piece. All the full-stops / periods were in the title – nice! Certainly adds to the breathless feel, which was clearly the intention. Good to see you gaining more and more confidence with your Flash Fiction, you’ll be armed with virtual shelves of medals and badges in the near future, I’m sure.

      • joshbertetta says:

        Thanks Mark. That was really fun. When I first came across flash fiction this summer I bought a couple anthologies and saw how some people wrote an entire story in one sentence and thought that was great so when I saw this prompt I thought, heck, I’ll give it a try.

    • It definitely paid off! It creates a very specific tone and pulls you along with the character.

    • necwrites says:

      I loved this one, especially how you’ve heightened the emotional turmoil via the structure. The flood of emotions coming on a wave of words have the appearance of being stream of consciousness, but in actuality are fine craft. The transference of her anger onto some anonymous photographer is poignant.

      • joshbertetta says:

        Thank you for you very thoughtful and poignant comment Necwrites. I appreciate it more than I can express.

    • voimaoy says:

      Swept away by this breathless prose. Amazing job!

    • C Connolly says:

      This pulls you along with it in terms of pacing – definitely leaves you breathless by the conclusion. Also – really great way of incorporating the prompt into your work here.

    • Marie McKay says:

      What a wonderful take on the prompt. I loved the structure and how it highlights the emotion.

  4. His Sister’s Steps
    by Maryann Holloway
    360 words
    @ma_holloway
    http://mholloway63.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/flash-frenzy-round-31-the-bicycle-mission-2/

    “Do you want to go watch the game after work?” asked Phil.

    “Sure but I have to stop by the police station first.”

    “Police station? Everything OK Eric?”

    “Just something I have to take care of every few months. I’ll fill you in when I meet you later.”

    At the police station, Eric entered the building from the side entrance. A regular visitor over the last ten years, most of the staff knew him and his story.

    “Hi Maggie. Is the Chief around?”

    Maggie picked up the telephone and spoke to the Chief. “Eric Morgan’s here. Do you have time to see him?”

    Hanging up, she said, “He’ll be right out. Have a seat Eric.”

    A large man in his late 50s came through an inner door and walked toward Eric.

    “Hi Eric. I am sorry but there isn’t anything to report.

    “Have you located everyone that hung out in Peters Woods?”

    “No but the trail was cold ten years ago. It was a hangout for teens back than but now they spend all their time in Internet cafés. The cabin at the top of the steps is abandoned and ready to collapse.”

    Disappointed, Eric thanked the Chief and left the station.

    At the pub, Phil was waiting for Eric. Spotting his friend, Phil waved and Eric joined him at the bar.

    “Everything OK?”

    “If you are willing to listen, I’ll tell you why I had to go to the police station.”

    “When I was born, my sister Krissy was ten years old so there was a big gap in our ages. The summer before she was supposed to start college, I was just a kid. That summer, she started hanging out with a new crowd and their preferred hang out was an old cabin that can be reached by climbing the old steps in Peters Woods.

    “I know them. I always thought that place a bit creepy.”

    One Friday night she didn’t come home and the police found no clues and it is still a cold case today.

    “Do you have any of your own theories?”

    “I do. Do you want to climb those steps with me this Saturday?

  5. necwrites says:

    Uncontacted Peoples
    358 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    Suchin shifted the spear and wiped the rain from her eyes. The spearhead wobbled. Above her, the faring photographer fussed on the observation deck, his lenses lined up on the railing under what looked like a tent for moonrats.

    “No one with half a brain would believe a fur bikini in this climate,” she groused and plucked at the beige pelt strapped to her chest.

    “Good thing our readership operates on less than that, then,” he quipped readjusting a tripod. “It’s all about expectations.”

    He had her posed within view of the deck, plunked down among the sweet buttery scent of lontam blossoms, as the elusive “uncontacted native” of the Golden Triangle.

    He frowned through the viewfinder. “Can you do something about the gooseflesh, hon?”

    Suchin jogged in place. The spearhead fell off into a soggy tangle of vine at her feet. She unraveled the leather braid—ostensibly cured from all those feral jungle cows roaming around Northern Thailand—and reaffixed the head with a more functional knot.

    “Why the spear?” Machetes were much more effective jungle tools.

    “Great thing about photography?” he muttered as if talking to his light meter. “It doesn’t require conversation.”

    She should’ve listened to her mother—but not for the fears that fretted Mae’s mind (farangs were all dirty old snakes). Suchin tugged at the furry panties. A little len-sek in the bungalow would’ve been less demeaning.

    The stench of rotting anchovies hit Suchin like a punch in the face. With a metallic shriek, a beast of ruddy fur burst from the trees and hurtled up the steps toward the photographer.

    Suchin recognized it: a creature out of bad campfire stories and worse movies. She hefted her prop and let fly. The spear punched the thing in its hairy back, enough to startle it into vaulting over the railing. It disappeared into the canopy leaving behind the reek of fish guts.

    “What the blazes was that?” the photographer rasped from behind a tripod, spasmodically thumbing his camera remote.

    Naang Maai Paa,” she said. If the tales were true, it would certainly qualify as an uncontacted native.

    She doubted his readership expected that.

  6. Marie McKay says:

    The Council
    (208 words)

    ‘This is the object you reported, Sir?’
    ‘Yes…that’s it.’
    ‘When did it appear?’
    ‘Late on Thursday,’ said the park keeper.’I called straight away.’
    ‘The call was logged, Sir. We have long waiting lists. Nobody saw or heard anything at the time of its appearance?’
    ‘Nothing. I just came up here to sweep the leaves and there it was. It’s taken out a few of the bigger trees.’
    ‘Anyone climbed it?’
    ‘No…I don’t think so. I mean definitely not. It looks like it goes on forever. What is it? What do you think’s happening?’
    ‘Can’t be sure. Not good to speculate. We are dealing with a number of reports that are coming in from all over. Four of these objects have appeared in this town alone. For the moment, The Council are concerned about Health and Safety…don’t want people injuring themselves climbing them and so on. Tie on these regulatory ‘Keep Out’ signs for the moment, then fill out the forms. You will get your second visit from The Council when your complaint has been processed, Sir.’

    Above the clouds more and more of their ships arrived. Each one’s titanic doors flipped open allowing its steps to drop to the grey planet below.

    • Mark A. King says:

      Brilliant take, Marie. I love how you’re captured the very essence of the council and H&S crew, even in the midst of an alien fleet, the red-tape must continue 🙂

    • Regulatory signs will always save the day! I enjoyed how funny and sinister this piece is at the same time. Brilliant world made from this photo.

    • necwrites says:

      Very cool. I’m so ready for a bureaucratic group called “The Council” to be a bloodless borg-like entity, yet here you’ve made the antagonism much more subtle–especially in the face of the menace from the skies. The council representative appears competent and level-headed, putting the park keeper at ease–all the while veiling a culture of covering-one’s-butt with formalities while not actually doing anything.

    • voimaoy says:

      Love this. Yes, funny and sinister–I can picture those stairs dropping down, too…Brilliant!

    • C Connolly says:

      Nice! I can see the appearances so clearly via your words – all two hundred or so of them! Language and tone work really well in this piece also.

  7. THE VIEW

    Brian S Creek
    325 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDogs

    You ever see that film, the one with Harvey Keitel where he takes a picture from the same spot every day? That’s what I wanted to do.

    My wife bought me this fantastic camera for Christmas ‘cause she knows I really like taking pictures. Up ‘till now I’ve been using my phone which is great and all but I’m ready for the next level now.

    So I found this spot, not too far from where I work. It’s up on the hills, three hundred and sixty steps, and gives a great view of my home town. It looks fantastic; I mean proper, jaw dropping stuff. Some days are better than others of course but that’s what I want; something different every day, natural diversity.

    The picture I take today will be the best yet. The sunrise ain’t anything to write home about and there’s fog on the other side of town so the background’s not too good. But there’s something that’s going to be in this picture that will make it worth a lot of money to me.

    I guess I have my wife to thank on two counts. The camera she got me was really good and came with a lot of different lenses, must have cost her a fortune. One of those lenses in particular can zoom a ridiculous distance.

    It’s so good in fact that you can easily make out the faces of my wife and the stranger she’s screwing in a ninth floor hotel room, even from this far away. I say stranger but I know it’s that jerk from her office that always hangs around her at work parties.

    I want to be angry, I really do, but I can’t stop thinking about how much my wife is worth and how much I’ll get from the divorce settlement.

    Maybe now I can retire from my dead end job and concentrate on photography as a hobby so I guess that’s something.

  8. Sal Page says:

    Do You Remember the Rain?

    Hi,

    Were you near the temple on the afternoon of 26th September?

    The man under the umbrella’s my husband, Paul. I took these photographs last Friday. We were married in the hotel garden on Wednesday. On honeymoon.

    If you were one of the tourists around that day you may remember me. Blonde woman in a wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs? Turquoise maxi-dress? Paul’s 37, 5ft 10, medium build, brown hair, bald on top. Long-sleeved white shirt. Navy trousers.

    Do you remember the rain? I laughed as it started – warm and soft – the very moment Paul took his camera out. Then he decided to walk to the temple. I said I was happy here and didn’t want him to carry me. Folk coming back down said it was the equivalent of ten flights. Paul carries me upstairs at home. I can manage but I don’t say. I know he still feels guilty about the accident. It makes him feel better, like he’s helping. Paul gets depressed sometimes.

    He came to the hospital to apologise. That’s how we met. Said he felt terrible. A few months later we were engaged. He still apologises, usually when he’s been drinking. I try to tell him how happy I am with him and my life. Giving up fulltime nursing for jewellery design never would’ve happened if he hadn’t been drink-driving that night. And he and I wouldn’t have met. True what Mum always said about silver linings.

    Anyway, Paul kissed me goodbye, said he’d be back within an hour and would take photos. That’s the last I ever saw of him.

    Were you here that day? Did you climb to the temple and see Paul up there? Knowing in what direction he was heading would help.

    I’m really worried. The police say the jungle’s so dense that if he wandered off he’d be impossible to find. He had his hipflask with him. If he drank the contents he wouldn’t be thinking straight. He might be lying somewhere all night, hurt and in wet clothes from the rain.

    If you know anything please contact the island police on 4461.

    Thank you,

    Jessica

    @SalnPage

    360 words

  9. voimaoy says:

    Machu Picchu
    @voimaoy #flashdog
    360 words

    This is her dream. It begins in the subway, signs and branching walkways, the rush of incoming trains. Crowd of morning commuters, passing. She exits onto the escalator. Concrete steps lead to the street. From there, the wooden stairway, leading somewhere. A figure stands at the landing, waiting.

    Every time, it is the same. She climbs a little further up the stairway, and the figure turns toward her. She can almost see his face (and that much she can determine, it is a he) before she wakes up.

    Dr. Moreno tells her it is her quest for enlightenment. The figure at the landing is a spirit guide. She knows it must be Ahmed Singh, her yoga teacher. There is such a connection between them, the way he steadies her with his hands. His eyes so deep and soulful. They understand each other without the need of words. Surely they have met before.

    But the figure on the stairway does not rush to meet her, not like Ahmed does when they meet for lunch at the vegan cafe. Ahmed says they should run away together, to Sedona, Arizona where the rocks have names and speak.

    Peter just doesn’t get any of this. Unlike Dr. Moreno her Jungian therapist, and Ahmed her yoga instructor, Peter has no metaphysical longings. His idea of bliss is homemade soup. He loves to cook, which is a good thing, because she has no interest in such mundane pursuits. She is a spiritual being, why doesn’t he understand that? Even after years together.

    It’s not that she hasn’t tried to talk to him about it. But Peter is so practical and down to earth. He is a photographer, not a dreamer.

    In the dream, she climbs the stairway, her thighs aching like they did climbing the steps of Machu Picchu on their honeymoon. Peter was carrying a 30-lb. backpack and camera equipment. There are some lovely pictures, her hair shining in the Andes, eyes shaded against the sun.

    In the dream, she climbs the stairway, surrounded by vines and thick jungle greenery. The figure turns to meet her. He holds out his hand to help her up…

  10. The Monkey Holds the World

    Win Fat raised his head; two thousand stairs reached ever upwards, ending at the Lon Chou viewpoint.
    In Autumn, the Ginkgo trees were a magnificent sight to behold.

    ‘Old man, you hope to make it to the top?’

    Win Fat turned his head in the young man’s direction, ignoring the sneer on his face.

    ‘No hope is required.’ Win Fat closed his eyes. The young man started running on the spot, panting, his breath noisy.

    ‘I’ll expect to hear the ambulance sirens before I’ve reached the top!’

    Laughing, the young man ascended the stairs, two at a time.

    Win Fat breathed in. Win Fat breathed out. He was ready.

    In his hand, the long, stout stick given to him by his grandfather. Placing his left foot forward onto the first stair he uttered sharply,

    ‘Ai!’

    Placing his right foot beside his left he uttered,

    ‘Hau!’.

    Raising the stick three inches from the floor, he forced it to the ground.

    Win Fat breathed in. Win Fat breathed out.

    The young man counted 500 steps before he stopped. With legs shaking he squatted, grasping the wooden railings, his aching lungs burning. Barely gathering his breath, his hard-boiled pride forced him onward.

    Win Fat continued on his journey, the hollow thump of his stick echoed like a muyu being struck across the empty mountains. The young man couldn’t hear the stick for the blood pounding in his ears. When he reached the last stair he fell to the floor, no strength in him to raise his head. At that exact moment, the Autumnal winds swept in from Lanzhou causing the Ginkgo trees to simultaneously drop their leaves. Like tiny ticker tape birds, the leaves wafted in yellow synchronized clouds, like migrating flocks of canaries floating across the landscape.

    Win Fat reached the final stair. Looking out at the bare trees, he smiled, and turned around to immediately walk back down.

    ‘How do you do it?’ The young man said weakly.

    ‘I breathe in, I breathe out. Just like the Ginkgo trees.’

    As Win Fat descended, the young man switched on his mobile phone.

    ‘Dad, it’s me. Can you pick me up?’

    (359 words)
    @avalina_kreska

  11. zevonesque says:

    Sweat Nothing
    by A J Walker

    Stuart was sweating like a fat man after a five day burger binge, he wasn’t made for the rainforest. These sightings had been like cat nip to him though, there was nowhere else to be.

    His cameras were all set up with different lenses some with automated triggers and one in his hands in case it came from another direction. This was where the creature had been spotted over the last months. He was to be the man to document it, no-one else had had a sniff of a photo.

    The cameras kept steaming up and he was fighting a losing battle trying to look after all of them. The last thing he wanted was his photos to be smudged fog. He walked up and down the damp slippy boards feeling the sweat torrenting down his back and front, his eyes stung.

    He realised he would have to stop pounding across the viewing platform, the noise was bound to disturb the wildlife. He looked at the camera around his neck, deciding it was his best bet to look after the one that he could turn and point.

    Then a flurry of wings startled him and he saw some sort of turkey flush through the undergrowth. The noise brought him to a standstill and he became acutely aware of the sounds around him. The sweat kept coming, draining him.

    His breathing paused as he felt something, his sixth sense kicking in, there was something here, something big. He let his breath come back slowly as his eyes surveyed the open ground beneath him. A monkey swung high in the canopy, but his focus was on the ground. The creature was here he knew it.

    Two hours later as the gloom fell and his body failed he had just snapped a couple of snakes and some birds, nothing he hadn’t seen before.

    Disappointed he plodded laboriously up the steps, then he stopped suddenly. In the mossy slime on the rotting timbers were the tracks of the creature. It had walked up the stairs right behind him. He hadn’t even thought of that, his sixth sense must not function well with dehydration.

    (360 words)
    @zevonesque

    #flashdog

  12. Mark A. King says:

    The Shadow Under The Stairs

    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog

    335 words

     

    Dillon needs to reach the bottom of the stairs, he has no choice, but the stairs contain shadows.

    His mamma is resting on her bed, naked, pale and unresponsive. Dillon sees the bottles of alcohol strewn everywhere, he knows from experience, this is not good.

    He sees the dirty spoons, grotty and grimy, and the marks on her arm, red on black. He doesn’t like the tight band, her arm is two different shades; grey and white.

    But…the stairs.

    The shadowman lives under the stairs. He sends his creeping slaves up the staircase to drag people down. He’s already sent them to get his mamma, now he wants to get Dillon. They want to drag him down, down to the bottom, along the corridor and through the small gap in the under-the-stairs-door. This is where he lives, this is where he eats; he has been after Dillon for some time, his slaves come to his room at night, and they watch him, they’ve always watched him.

    Dillon needs to get to the phone. Downstairs.

    The dark fungus spores reach up and encrust the narrow stairway. Dillon can smell them, he can feel them breathing; they grow and slither, so slowly.

    Dillon places a foot on the first tread, carefully, light pressure applied, on the balls of his feet, trying to keep his body as far away from under the stairs as possible. The shadowman might break through the wood and carpet.
    A creak.
    He’s coming up through the floor boards.
                    Groan.
     He’s hungry. So hungry.
                    A shadow moves.
    Dillon runs down the rest of the stairs, sprinting, worried about tripping, he runs towards the phone. He gasps as he runs by the under-the-stairs-door, which is slightly ajar – it spills out darkness like an illness.

    He visualises dialling the number quickly, just three numbers.

    He runs, arms outstretched, grabs the phone and presses the on-button.

    No sound. No signal.

    He looks towards the door, under the stairs.

    It is fully open and shadows are everywhere.

    • This is quality terror. I could feel myself holding my breath as I ran along with him as I read. “Spills out darkness like an illness”, I feel like I’ll be thinking of that line when I attempt to go downstairs to get a drink of water tonight.

    • C Connolly says:

      The language works really well here to convey the point of view whilst ensuring details are appreciated, such as the marks on the arm and so on. Really effective.

    • voimaoy says:

      This is the stuff of nightmares, horror through suggestion and imagination. Very very scary.

    • necwrites says:

      I feared for this poor guy. You build up the tension so well–even if I believed that Dillon had an overactive imagination (which I didn’t as I’d read some of your stuff before), I still sympathized with the boy in the facing of these shadowy terrors. Then the final three lines of hope coming crashing down are priceless.

  13. Mark A. King says:

    Instagram Insurgent

    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog

    275 words

    We stand on a platform between the top and bottom of the stairs.

    Above us our history, our heritage. Below us, the bowels of hell. The platform has been getting nearer the bottom for some time, but we’ve chosen to ignore it. The sulphur smell of greed, the uric acid burns of celebrity are just things we have become used to.

    But my eyes are open. I am the photographer standing between the two worlds.

    There they are, at the awards, talking about the environment, while they’re taking flights to go on thirty minute chat-shows on the other side of the world.

    There they are, role-models, product ambassadors; but they twerk, they grind, they dress in ways that are frankly obscene – while girls aged twelve dress in push-up bras and dream of careers in glamour modelling or dating rich football players.

    And the boys, oh the boys. Ten year olds talking head-shots on CoD. Eleven year olds talking the best strip clubs and ammo centres on GTA. Don’t blame the manufactures; blame the celebs with their Instagram photos and messages to the fans; parents think anything goes. The moral compass of society is haywire.

    I have had enough. For evil only needs good men to do nothing.

    Ever wondered what happened to ‘one hit wonder’ celebrities? Their demise is my doing. I spread rumours and hack sales figures.

    I hack phones and photo accounts – oh yes, and I’ve done a lot more.

    But my Instagram insurgency is hardly making a dent. We have been brainwashed and will forgive almost anything.

    We are sliding. The platform is sinking. All I can do is take the pictures.

    • Mark A. King says:

      Before I get into trouble. It’s a work of fiction. Views are not mine but those of a fictional character 🙂

      • Sal Page says:

        Of course! (It was a special writing moment for me realising that I could write a story in first person & the reader won’t think that’s me … gives you a great feeling of freedom!) I like how you’ve used the stairs and viewing platform in this, and especially ‘the uric acid burns of celebrity’ .. .Great stuff!

      • Rebekah Postupak says:

        I’ve heard THAT before.

    • C Connolly says:

      Nice incorporation of the photo prompt into your character’s social commentary here. Great sense of the ominous in the references to brainwashing, platform sinking etc.

  14. Corporate Retreat

    “There’s something wrong with this elevator.”
    “That’s because it’s the outdoor shower.”
    My boss circled around inside the wooden enclosure, brow furrowed and then gave out a little “urp” that insinuated that the turning in circles was taking its toll.
    “Right you are. This won’t get us back to the swwwwarty,” he guffawed, eyes closing a bit as he failed his attempt at the word party.
    “No sir. But if you come this way we can take the stairs,” I said, rolling my eyes internally at how long it would take to get this vodka soaked sack of a man up those stairs. He tottered over to the stairs. He was like a cartoon, carrying is girth in his balloon-round abdomen, supported by legs that tapered into delicate ankles and tiny feet. I often imagined poking that stomach with a pin and watching him sail around the room as he deflated.
    He climbed the first flight with the kind of gusto that only comes to the severely inebriated and arrived at the first landing. I followed at a slower pace and discovered him facing the lake with an umbrella open above him. It was the kind meant for tables but he twirled it handily.
    “I’m a fairy princess!” he said in a high slurry voice so that at first I heard it as “furry princess”. Which brought to mind an image of him in a tiara, shirtless and flaunting his man sweater. I needed brain bleach.
    “You sure are. Now up the next flight of stairs. No, leave the umbrella.”
    He wobbled and swam through the air to the next flight.
    As he began ascending I could see that his weight was beginning to shift backward. I imagined my fate, I would be the jelly filling that shot from a donut, under the wheel of a tractor trailer.
    I had no choice but to place both my hands squarely on his ass and push him up the stairs.

    The next morning I brought him his coffee and said, “Thank you so much for the promotion! All things considered, no one needs to see the videos.”

    356 Words
    @CaseyCaseRose

    • Sal Page says:

      This did make me laugh. The whole flash could be extended into a sitcom episode … well, to me that’s a compliment! 😉

    • Mark A. King says:

      Fantastic entry! Such wonderful writing that is both incredibly descriptive and comedic.
      ” vodka soaked sack of a man”
      “He was like a cartoon, carrying is girth in his balloon-round abdomen, supported by legs that tapered into delicate ankles and tiny feet. I often imagined poking that stomach with a pin and watching him sail around the room as he deflated.”
      Also great work with…The image of the pub umbrella & the image of him being pushed up by his butt.
      Top work, Casey.

    • voimaoy says:

      This video is playing in my head. Fabulous story!

    • great story Casey….. loved the idea of needing brain bleach…. 🙂

    • C Connolly says:

      So many great images and descriptions here! Really enjoyed this. Great work, Casey!

    • necwrites says:

      The first two lines left me laughing–brilliant use of dialogue to set the tone and reveal something of the characters (making the third line a bit of a surprise, re: That’s the boss??). The physical description of the guy and the similes (jelly donut) were also hilarious.

  15. C Connolly says:

    Ursilla

    Tam had clipped dutifully, shearing the horny substances crusted into her small palms and soles, amidst winces and squirming. Slices of horn had formed slowly in their place; barriers harder to break down, spreading – finally – into webs between digits. That had decided it. Now, the water sings as he stitches stalks, liquid reach kissing his knees; needle driving through velvet thickness lit by moonlight. Its point pierced his skin when salty distractions blurred his vision; the pin prick dulled now to numbness as he works onward, methodical, towards the finish. Blood soaks the makeshift thread as it closes the gaps, sealing over the criss-crossed weeds hugging its breathing centre. Dark eyes watch within as he does. He would have the best for his girl.

    Tam loses track of time in the driving of sharpened bone, one side to the other – finds himself keeping count of the tiny crosses closing over the X marked chest. By the end the number is beyond him; no way of knowing. Once fully sewn in and left with a fur filled sack requiring dispatch, he hefts his heavy burden further into the waters, holding her carefully still above the caresses of the cresting waves. Tam looks further out; watching; waiting. She had told him, though he hadn’t listened then. No choice now – just as he had no choice then. He is up to his middle, clothes sodden, arms outstretched, feet as yet holding firm beneath him. She will know. She will come at the waves’ calling.

    A bobbing break in the surface announces the harem’s presence and Tam relieves himself of her weight, pushing her out into the depths. His breath catches momentarily before he sees her borne aloft by semi sunken silk undulations; a rise and fall, out and into the beyond.

    Wading from the brine, Tam seeks higher ground, climbing cliff side stairs to glimpse her before she is gone completely; still cloaked in the salt’s sting, its traces tracked upon his cheeks, as well as clothing. He will watch the distant specks a while longer, with the scent of the sea on his skin. Until they swim from sight.

    (360 words)

    @FallIntoFiction
    #FlashDog

    • Mark A. King says:

      For me, this is your most beautifully descriptive piece to date. I also can’t believe that it’s only 360 words long – so much packed into such a short space. Congrats.

    • Shirl says:

      Beautifully written. It was an unusual take on the prompt, which I really enjoyed.

      • C Connolly says:

        Thank you! Yes – I wanted to try and find a slightly different slant on the photo prompt. Glad you think I managed to do that with the story as it stands.

    • necwrites says:

      What incredible language–lyrical and dark. Cross over an X-marked chest, dark eyes watching from within, semi-sunken silk undulations, cloaked in the salt’s sting, all concrete, like anchors for the reader as we ride through the miasma of Tam’s mind. The mysterious “no choice” for his grotesque actions opens up like a chasm under me as I read it.

    • I enjoy how tangible all your descriptions are, like I can feel the texture of the thread and the salt of water and tears. Really fascinating piece, I made sure to read it twice to really take it all in.

  16. “Utopia”
    205 words
    @jaimeburchardt

    Growing up, this garden area used to be his favorite place to visit. As a kid, and even as a teenager, he would go there to just vent internally, to find peace. He would do some of his best thinking there.

    Now, as an adult and as a detective, he found himself there to investigating the newest item in the case of the serial sniper.

    The killer’s MO was starting to build. He or she picks family-friendly areas to set up, using unconventional items that look like they couldn’t possibly form as a weapon of death (in this case, a professional camera). Their target, miles and miles away in public areas.

    The tense build-up in his stomach was evident. There he was, in a place that was in own personal utopia, now just another location in the chase. He was about done looking at the camera when a chill went down his spine. A thought.

    The killer, their choice of location. This couldn’t mean anything, right? He couldn’t possibly be targeted…right?

    No, it’s just another killer. Just coincidence.

    It has to be.

    That’s what he made himself think as he tried to shake off another pending feeling. The feeling that he was being watched.

  17. Between Heaven and Hell

    Phil took slow and labored breaths as he climbed the wooden staircase. The supplies strapped to his back felt like they were crushing his spine. To make matters worse, droplets of rain fell from the sky. Despite the pain and the rain, he kept going. The love of his life was waiting for him.

    Phil fell in love with Tracy the moment he saw her. She had piercing green eyes and fire engine red hair. Her breasts entered the room before she did as her large hips swayed side to side. Her legs seemed to go on for days. Phil knew there was more to her. She had an infectious laugh and smile. She was witty and confident. Tracy was the perfect woman.

    Phil didn’t know what she saw in him. He wasn’t good looking or rich. He was a typical middle aged man. Yet Tracy took to him like a moth to a flame. It was only a matter of time before Phil was under her spell. He promised to do anything for her. She wasn’t shy about taking him up on the offer.

    Phil didn’t think he had it in him, but Tracy’s love was enough to motivate him. It was surprisingly easy to shoot her husband down like an animal. Despite the ease of the crime, he was sloppy. People knew Phil and Tracy were having an affair. It was only a matter of time before the cops found out too. The couple planned to make their escape that rainy afternoon.

    Exhaustion set in and Phil had to stop in the middle of the stairway. Phil threw down his supplies and took out an umbrella. He knew he had to keep going. He had to get to her in time. Hopefully, she would understand and still be there.

    “Phil,” he heard Tracy call.

    He smiled. Before he could turn around, he felt something hit his back. He looked down to see blood oozing from his chest. He collapsed onto the ground as Tracy hovered over him. He reached out his hand for her and whispered I love you.

    351 words

    @triffic_tinika

  18. Bart says:

    The Meaning of Life

    Like many first-timers in Thailand, Henry and Elizabeth had been scammed on a few occasions during their three week trek.

    But when this little old lady, face like a raisin, with twinkling eyes in between the wrinkles, approached them on the banks of the Nan River and she insisted they visit Wat Tha Thanon, a temple that housed Luang Pho Phet, the principal Buddha statue of the province, they sensed this might not be a rip-off.

    When the ramshackle bus dropped them off in the drizzle, there was no one. They sauntered through the lusciously decorated gateway. A tarmac footpath swerved to the right, leading to massive teak stairs that disappeared between the trees. Henry and Elizabeth looked up.

    ‘Isn’t that… that’s… Alain de Botton,’ Henry muttered.

    Elizabeth squinted. She saw a man on the middle landing, taking a picture with a camera on a tripod under an umbrella. Balding, but that was the only resemblance to de Botton she noticed.

    While Elizabeth was still considering the possibility, Henry had already raced up the stairs.

    ‘Mr. de Botton?’

    For someone who was trained to take things philosophically, de Botton seemed unpleasantly surprised.

    ‘Yes. Yes indeed,’ he tried to smile.

    ‘Wow. I’m a big fan. I still go back to ‘Essays in Love’ once in a while, just love it.’

    De Botton tried to smile even more.

    ‘What are you taking a picture of?’ Henry asked.

    ‘Oh, nothing,’ de Botton answered, making his posture as broad as possible, like a bodyguard fencing off whatever he was photographing. Or at least trying to.

    Now Elizabeth had reached the landing as well.

    ‘Mr. de Botton! What a surprise!’

    ‘Listen, I am in the middle of something important here. Could you…’

    ‘What then?’ Henry interrupted.

    The philosopher looked around. Still no one. It was him against them. So he gave in.

    ‘I have discovered… the meaning of life,’ he declared with appropriate gravitas in his voice.

    ‘What?’ Henry and Elizabeth squeaked.

    Half a second later Henry tried to push de Botton out of the way. They struggled, both with immeasurable strength. The philosopher’s foot slipped on the wet teak.

    And then Henry saw it.

    360 words
    @bartvangoethem
    #FlashDog

    • Mark A. King says:

      Nice. So clever. Well done.

    • necwrites says:

      The first line of defense to the reveal of the meaning is de Botton; the second is the immovable word count in the hands of a clever author. Ooo, and the set up should have readied me for that ending. I’m just as gullible as a first-timer Thailand.

    • I love how easily I could picture this couple’s trip to the temple, even if I can’t easily picture what Henry sees. Really vivid piece, though I have to grudgingly admit I feel like the ending has gone over my head.

      • Bart Van Goethem says:

        I think no one can picture what Henry sees. It’s the meaning of life 😉

        Or, now that I think about it: maybe everyone pictures something different, because it’s different for everyone.

        Who knows. I certainly don’t. I just wrote the thing.

  19. The Choice
    @stellakateT
    360 words

    Seeing him standing on the platform half way up ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ I couldn’t believe I had agreed to meet him here. Didn’t know whether he’d propose or push me off, that was the nature of our relationship. He was looking the other way so I had a bit of time to decide. If he pushed me off would that be so bad. I’d either survive or die; he’d end up in jail, good riddance. I felt a twinge of conscience okay he didn’t deserve to spend his life locked up just because we weren’t a good match. Many couples managed to be together without committing murder even if they had nothing in common, a proposal of marriage how did I really think about that?

    We’d been together for years. He’s a fair bit older than me. Exasperated me at times but mostly made me laugh then one day he changed or maybe I changed. I’ve started to do this psychology course at the local tech and it’s made me challenge a lot of things. I’ve started to study his habits, why does he only eat porridge for breakfast; he has no Scottish origins as far as I know. Why does he have to have his evening meal no later than six o’clock? Suppose it could be his digestion or he can’t sleep on a full stomach. He really is a creature of habit.

    He spots me, smiles and beckons me up. My heart does that little flip it always does when I haven’t seen him for a while. God I hope he is going to propose, it’s been a long time coming. I practically run up those stairs.

    It’s raining heavily now.

    If I didn’t know better I’d think he’s got tears in his eyes. He hugs me tight than starts to tell me about the woman he’s met at work. They go for lunch, have coffee together, she’s about his age.

    I wonder if the judge will be compassionate if I pushed him over the railings. Will the coroner record an accidental death? I’ll never know because I wished him luck and walked back down those stairs.

  20. Cut-Throat Ornithology
    Davis Wobbles
    351 Words

    The Cut-Throat Finch is an unremarkable bird save for the bright red band across the throat of the male.
    Unremarkable in its native Africa at least…but a real coup to find deep in the Sussex countryside.
    I didn’t find it.
    That honour will remain with Cecil Griffiths, another long time member of the ornithological society.

    It was Cecil who’d found that Barred Warbler last year, towards the tail end of summer.
    I’d grimaced through his presentation, hands of jealously squeezing bile from my guts and driving acid up the back of my throat.
    I’d excused myself and thrown up.

    I raise Cecil’s camera. The zoom costs more than the battered car I drove here in. I’d shout and thank him for loaning it to me, but that would be stupid – I’d frighten the finch away… and Cecil’s dead.

    He’d text me to taunt me – an excited, misspelt message. I was ambling around Shooter’s Bottom, optimistic of a chance shot – when my outdated phone had buzzed.

    Why he told me where he was I’ll never know.

    I’d gunned my rust bucket inland, red mist descending.
    That girl and her stupid dog should have been looking where they were going.

    There was blood on my hands before I began to climb the stairs to the viewing platform.

    There he was – ridiculous amounts of gear scattered haphazardly about the decking.

    He’d set up under his brolly, tripod stand pointing the camera down into the lush green gorge.

    He didn’t turn to greet me – had no time to look me in the eye and realise he’d done wrong.

    The last thing he saw would have been my silhouette and the red slash of a male finch. Two things that were somewhere they shouldn’t be.

    Then his head had broken against the rocks in the stream below, its contents spilling like an overripe cantaloupe and washing down towards the car park.

    The bird alights on the rim of Cecil’s shattered spectacles.

    I snap away.

    Good camera this.

    I *will* tell people that Cecil found it.

    I do have principles you know.

  21. Lesson Learned?

    The seventh step on the staircase to my father’s study had a squeak. I used to think he had made it himself so he knew when someone was coming. The staircase was carpeted in red that had worn to threads in the center. On the wall above the stairs hung a painting of my grandfather, and a painting of his father, and another painting of his father. I swear their eyes used to follow me as I climbed.
    ‘Come,’ his voice would boom before I had raised my fist to knock. His study was dark, yellowed by a weak lamp. Gossamers of smoke hung in the air but the smell of damp and rot was stronger: our house, once great, crumbled while my father sat in his study smoking his pipe and drinking Irish whiskey from a cup.
    ‘What is it Charles?’ he’d say.
    I’d take a deep breath, look him in his basset-hound eyes, and like a sinner in the confessional box, account for the day’s transgressions. Then he’d take down the hickory switch from the wall, flex it in his hands, and absolve me of my sins.
    “Who do you think I am?” he’d say, as the switch wheezed through the air. “I am your father. I am not someone else.”
    I know who you are. You are a small man living off the legends of bigger men. You are someone who thinks a beating makes up for being a poor father. I swear on the blood you now draw that I will never become you.
    A knock at the door disturbs my thoughts. My pipe lies on my desk in shards. Blood is pooling from a gash on my hand: ten years in the grave and the old man can still make me bleed.
    My son comes into my study. He stands in the doorway looking down at his shoes.
    ‘What is it Charles?’ I say.
    ‘Disrespecting my mother, sir.’
    I take down the hickory switch from the wall. How long till the boy learns his lesson?

    340 words
    @MicroBookends
    Also published at http://www.microbookends.com/

  22. Amy Wood says:

    @jujitsuelf
    360 words

    Stairway to Heaven

    “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”

    Steve groaned. “Oh my God, not Zeppelin again. You’ve been singing it for two days.”

    James grinned. “Not my fault, it’s that poster on Emma’s bedroom wall, the one with the staircase and the photographer guy. Every time I see it, I get Zeppelin in my head.”

    “I hate that thing,” Steve said. “What’s wrong with traditional bedroom posters, you know, Star Wars and supercars?”

    “You’re living in the Eighties.” James shook his head. “She’s into all that art stuff or didn’t you know?”

    “’Course I know, she’s my sister,” Steve snorted. What was wrong with the Eighties?

    “Come on, we’re gonna be late for Callaghan and I can’t afford to have another professor mad at me.” James nudged Steve along the crowded corridor.

    As they passed rapidly filling classrooms, Steve frowned. “Hold on a second. How do you know what posters are on my sister’s bedroom wall? When have you been in there?”

    James smirked.

    “What?” Steve winced. “You’re not banging my sister. Are you?”

    All he got was a shrug and a wider smirk.

    “I object to this union on moral grounds.”

    “What grounds?” James demanded.

    On the grounds that I saw you first and I’ve crushed on you for years, you oblivious idiot. “You’re an asshole and I refuse to have you as a brother-in-law.”

    James laughed and pushed Steve toward their class again. “I’d be an awesome brother-in-law and you know it. Who mentioned matrimony anyway?”

    It was hard not to enjoy the warmth of the hand on his shoulder but Steve tried anyway. “So it’s not serious?”

    “We’re in college, dude. Nothing’s serious.”

    With a heavy heart, Steve followed James into their shared economics class. No, nothing was ever serious to him.

    That was why Steve had never confessed about how he really felt. What was the point? James would laugh, then walk away, disgusted.

    It was more than Steve could bear, so he ducked his head and pretended to listen to Callaghan drone on, all the time wishing he’d never met James Fenham.

    • Mark A. King says:

      I almost didn’t submit this week because that song was all I could think about (I don’t own it, btw). Then I knew I’d struggle to build a story around the song that wasn’t obvious, but you’ve done an excellent job of using as a driver for something else, which is impressive. Nicely done.

    • I love how you’ve captured a very real struggle here. And to have a love unrequited is difficult enough but to have to endure your own siblings receiving the attention you want feels like an extra punch to the gut. Well told.

  23. Rebekah Postupak says:

    Up

    Jack! Come back here.

    No, the landing doesn’t count. All the way back down, please.

    Because I said so.

    Yes, I’m sure that man with the camera is very nice.

    No, you may not bother him.

    Yes, asking questions is bothering him.

    No, I will not come up there and bring you your camera to take pictures of the man with the camera.

    I’m laughing on the inside.

    You’re right; that would be a form of bothering him too. Clever boy. Now, will you please come down?

    I know you like stairs. We have stairs at home, remember? Lots of them. Come on; let’s go home, and you can climb them all you like. Down to the basement, up to the attic, all day long.

    Sorry. Yes, I meant the turret.

    No, I will not call you Prince Jack. You need to get back down here. Look—everyone else is leaving. They’re closing up.

    Fine.

    Prithee, wilt thou accompany me, my lord the prince?

    I did summon the royal carriage. It’s waiting in the magical carriage lot.

    You may hold the reins as soon as you have your, um, carriage permit.

    Yes, I realize that’s six years from now. Terribly sorry; law of the land and all. Shall we go?

    Please, Jack. We need to go. Don’t you see how dark it’s getting at the top of the stairs?

    NO! No, please, sweetheart, you don’t need to go see if it’s really that dark. You’ll have to trust me on this one. It’s dark, okay? Real dark. Just come on.

    Of course you can trust me. I’m your mother, aren’t I?

    What do you mean, prove it? Do you remember any other mother?

    Sure, your own memory counts as proof!

    No! I will not make you beans for supper even if you come down. I told you never to ask me for beans again.

    I don’t need a reason. I don’t like them, that’s all.

    No, not even five beans. What an odd request. You’re frightening me. Please, come.

    What strange dreams?

    What peddler?

    Jack. I’m not kidding. Come down.

    Jack.

    JACK!

    352 words
    @postupak

    • Mark A. King says:

      Another first class entry, taken from the top drawer of the Flash Fiction cabinet. Two badges in a row?

    • necwrites says:

      Oh, man, how many times have I had a prototype of this conversation (the squidlet is two)? “Prithee wilt thou accompany me” made me laugh in the cafe. I’m also the biggest sucker for re-told/re-imagined fairy tales, so the ending was like fresh-baked apple pie delivered to my heart.

    • Great story every line really made me chuckle. Especially liked ‘What do you mean, prove it? Do you remember any other mother?’ LOL

      • Rebekah Postupak says:

        Sometimes I’m not sure who to feel sorriest for, mothers or their kids, hahahhaa! the things we put them through. Thank you for the nice comment!

    • I love the use of mythology again along with this brilliant collection of responses. I love the way you captured how specific children want to be when finding their boundaries, “Yes, asking questions is bothering him”.
      I simply loved this.

  24. Jacki Donnellan says:

    Getting Changed

    Stares.

    So many stares.

    Yeah, go ahead, I think. Feast your eyes. And I’ll let them, for a while.

    And then I’ll hit out, smacking their stares straight back into their faces with my ultimate weapon: a stare. Works every time. Their eyes dart away like frightened rabbits, and start reading the ads above the windows like they’re novels.

    And then, of course, there’s the hidden cameras. The phones discretely angled towards me; the subtle finger- taps on their screens. I must’ve been paraded around the ether at least a hundred times.

    On a really good day, it’s amusing. Something to break up the stretch from Baker Street to Waterloo.

    But on a bad day, I’d like to rip their eyes right out of their heads.

    Or just rip the brains out of mine.

    “You just have to learn to ignore it,” someone will tell me, at my Group. “Let them stare.”

    “It’s often like that to begin with, I’m afraid,” someone else will say. “It’s an uphill struggle. One step at a time.”

    I stare.

    Every day.

    I stare, at the person in the mirror. And I’m shocked. Every time.

    Sometimes I think that if I stare hard enough, the person in the mirror will transform before my very eyes, and turn all by itself into the person inside my head.

    It’s an uphill struggle. But I’ve started the climb.

    I’m running late. Getting changed in the morning takes so much more time than just getting dressed. My high heels clip hastily down the tube platform, towards the escalators to the street.

    “Excuse me, love,” says a voice behind me, “you dropped something.”

    I turn around, to see a woman holding something small and golden towards me.

    My lipstick.

    “It fell out of your pocket,” the woman says, handing it to me. “You should keep it in your handbag.”

    She smiles pleasantly. And without staring, without even a second glance, she goes on her way.

    For a moment I just stare. And then I yell out after her. “Thank-you!”

    Everyone stares.

    Still so very many stares.

    But that will change.

    I step onto the escalator, and slowly, I ascend.

    360 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    • Mark A. King says:

      Wow, Jacki. This is just my sort of thing. The social tension of a ride on the underground. The paranoia. The state of internal conflict and uncertainty. Hints at mental illness. The invasion of technology and erosion of privacy. Wonderful work. Congratulations.

    • Shirl says:

      Brilliantly balanced. I love the amount you leave for the reader to infer for themselves, and the positive ending – well done!

    • voimaoy says:

      Splendid story. How well you describe the social anxiety, and I love the play on stares/steps. The positive ending is such a triumph. Well-done!

    • necwrites says:

      What a cool take on the prompt. I love how you set up the most insignificant thing to be life changing. You make this tiny catalyst so subtly epic. I’m reminded of the epiphanies in Joyce’s Dubliners. The recurring wordplay with the prompt makes me extraordinarily happy.

    • What an exploration! Really liked ‘Sometimes I think that if I stare hard enough, the person in the mirror will transform before my very eyes, and turn all by itself into the person inside my head.’ – This line summed up the whole story I feel. Enjoyed it immensely.

    • Jacki Donnellan says:

      Thanks so much for the comments and feedback. It’s so very much appreciated. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to comment on others’ stories this week.

    • Like everyone else, I also enjoy the way we’re left to infer what is really “wrong” with the main character, whether it’s paranoia or something more. Finding that kind moment at the end was delightful and unexpected.

  25. Image Ronin says:

    Adventures in Monochrome

    A checkerboard flanks my every step up the worn wooden steps towards the lookout. The flowers of the ornamental garden are a constant lure for those intrepid collectors of light and time. As a man encumbered by foolish rituals I had lost many a day watching a petal unfurl, or the waltz of a pollen flecked bee from temptress to temptress. Gaining satisfaction from the poised finger, that moment one is sniper and artist. The click and serenade of spooling film confirming another kill. Followed by hours spent isolated under crimson light, watching time erode blank paper.

    Regretfully since the diagnosis I have become tired of such things, so I’m certain it’s neither jealously nor pity I feel as I watch the photographer adjusting f-stops, tinkering with lenses. An old school acolyte quite rightly disregarding the obsequious phone, packed to the gunnels with deceits that mimics in seconds what real photographers spend days capturing and perfecting.

    He notices my presence; a nod of the head enough of an interaction to satisfy us both, before he presses his eye into the sight, fingers slowly adjusting the lens. I tread lightly, peering over the rail to see his subject. Below poses a wonderful ebony orchid, from whose alabaster stamen hang pregnant bounties of ivory pollen.

    ‘Beautiful isn’t she?’ he whispers, looking up from the sight, ‘such richness, such grace, figured if I get this right I’ll submit to the comp.’

    I nod appreciatively, then bid farewell with a raised hand as tiredness already threatens to overwhelm my spirits. I should be thankful, I mean I’m not the only one. Self help groups have sprung up, whilst doctors and specialists try to figure out what has caused this epidemic. They have at least given the condition a name:

    Chromaphobia.

    Some opine its viral, maybe a psychic disorder. Some conspiracies have directed their suspicion at 24-7 rolling news, whose binary perspectives have split everything into black and white.

    All I know is that that I exist in blandness. As if the world has been dished up to me unseasoned.

    I walk home, past row upon row of monochrome.

    Trying to recall yellow butterflies.

    @imageronin
    360 words

  26. Trolling

    ‘There’s always a troll under the bridge! Remember? Fairytales 101!’ 

    ‘Thanks a bunch!’

    ‘Any time.’ Steph made to clap Sarah on the back, missed, and staggered in her heels, just managing to stay upright.

    ‘Can you get home OK?’

    ‘Yeah.’ Steph wavered slightly, and drew herself up. ‘Course. Short walk. When’s your train?’

    Sarah looked at her watch. ‘Ten minutes or so.’

    ‘Go on then. Up’n’over. Mind the troll!’

    ‘Night!’

    ‘Nunigh.’ Steph was in no state to form proper words. Sarah watched her wobble off and looked up at the steps.

    Troll, indeed. 

    Up we go. The metal tips of her stilettos clacked against the wooden steps. It was cold now. Trust Steph to insist they should meet in her home town.

    ‘You’ll love it! It’s so different from uni.’

    Yeah. A one-horse town where the horse died. And now she would have to wait in the dark for a local train which would stop everywhere, then the last train home and a taxi…was it worth it to spend the evening getting drunk in a high-street pub and fending off trolls?

    Sarah’s annoyance had fuelled her to the top of the bridge. She paused for a second and saw a tiny white light, growing steadily larger. She ran down the steps to the platform, arriving just as the train pulled in, and sank onto a seat, panting and furious. It wasn’t worth it.

    Sarah pulled out her phone and deleted Steph, and sulked and fumed to herself all the way home. The late-night chats, the stupid jokes, the support when she’d broken up with Jake, the finals revision sessions powered by pizza which had kept her going when she wanted to give up and crawl away…it was all deleted.

    Steph eventually found the right key and got a little static shock as she skated it around the lock. That would explain the goosebumps, it wasn’t that cold. Eventually the key found its home, and she let herself in.

    In the cutting beneath the bridge, hidden by bushes, the little troll chuckled and rubbed his hands.

    350 words
    @lizhedgecock

  27. Bay of Silence

    She was tall and she could fill a blouse. She was easy on the eyes. Cherry red lips curled upwards into a predatory sneer. Skin as flawless as fresh paint. Eyes that were hard and shiny like two freshly minted coins. My gut thought she could be trouble for a certain type of man. The type of man who breathed.

    I handed her the images. Mrs.Calloway scrolled through the pictures with the flick of a french-manicured finger. Photos I had taken at a cafe on Dickerson. A man and a woman. He was the fidgety sort, his body a vessel for slippery tremors. The woman wore an expensive necklace, a rope of diamonds with a pendant hanging down to her cleavage in the shape of a pear. She smoked skinny cigarettes and ate her plate of poached eggs with bird-like thrusts.

    I was only tasked with obtaining pictures and an address. I had followed them to a bungalow on Plum street, a place of shadows with greasy contours.

    She handed me an envelope with my name scrawled in lipstick. I fingered the green bills inside as she floated out of the room. Her scent, exotic and carnal, leaving a trail of lust. I was a man who breathed.

    A week later I sat in my office reading an article in the local rag. The woman from the cafe, Elizabeth Rooney, was found dead on the waterfront. One witness saw a lanky doll scurrying away from the scene, stiletto heels clicking on wet asphalt. Her purse might have concealed a fruity heirloom as well.

    A new client arrived on time. Mrs. Howard wore a tiny skirt that showed off legs that were smooth and pale, like two glasses of warm milk. Her feet were sheathed in Italian leather.

    She wanted an address and photo of Mrs. Calloway. I suppressed a grin and told her I would start tomorrow.

    I called my wife and told her to meet me at the swanky bistro on Ludlow. Told her I had a gift that sparkled. She cooed.

    I didn’t mention the temptress I dumped in Cutter Bay. No need to spoil the night.

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    359 words

  28. milambc says:

    Beyond the Lens (360 words)
    @brett_milam

    His voice was like a matchstick in a gas tank when he commanded me to come downstairs. I could feel it snaking through the pipes and bursting into my face, as I sat on my foster sister’s Barbie rug. I had just finished straightening Barbie’s blonde hair when I heard it.

    “Robbie, picture time,” he said.

    Picture time, said as if it was a happy time. At least I got her hair right before I had to go. My foster sister, Brittany, always left her hair entangled with a brush or once, I had found her gum stuck in it.

    My seventh birthday was a week ago, but I still remembered my third sitting in the swirling chair while my mom shampooed a customer’s hair. Her fingers painstakingly worked through the strands, as if making sure each particular one glowed and shined.

    I put Barbie in the back pocket of my shorts, her smiling face with perfect white teeth sticking out, and headed toward the back door of the foster home.

    On the way, I passed what Brittany called the “Bragging Room.” She told me all the plaques and ribbons covering the walls were to recognize the “awesomeness,” as she said, of the foster home from the community. She said the picture above his desk was of him and the governor. I didn’t know what a governor was, but she made it seem important.

    Through the back door, I came to the steps. Steps I had known since I arrived here. By now, I knew each ache and moan they made and where, how the bottom step was the only quiet one, how when I was younger, the distance between each step felt gigantic for my little legs.

    And the nail marks along the railing. None today.

    Barbie would keep me safe. Maybe if he saw how straight I got her hair, he wouldn’t take his pictures where the snap, snap, snap felt like that one time I got a splinter under my pinky finger.

    “Off,” he said, fixated on his professional camera.

    My shorts pooled around my ankles like a dead shadow. Barbie stayed in the heap, smiling away.

    • voimaoy says:

      What’s scary is this abuse really happens. I love the connection with the mother and the Barbie doll. Heartbreaking. What a courageous story.

    • necwrites says:

      From the opening line, this had me by the throat–voice like “a matchstick in a gas tank”, I mean really: what a perfect set up for the situation. The last line left me for dead. So brutal, so sad. The snippet of memory of a mother contrasts with such aching starkness to Robbie’s current situation that I nearly had to stop. The Barbie talisman just… ouch.

    • Gulp! Lummy. You painted such a scene throughout using ‘Barbie’ as a prop- very real. The awful ‘bragging room’ – but those steps with the invisible nail marks… and then… blimey Brett. Such a great piece of flash. Hard to read but great. And sadly, very true I would imagine.

    • I ache reading how much care and hope he places in his memories and on this toy that should epitomize a kind of clean perfection. Really well written if still difficult to read.

    • milambc says:

      Thank you all for kind words. It truly means a lot to me.

  29. drmagoo says:

    The sign at the bottom of the stairs was worn, the wood faded and chipping. But it looked exactly the same as it had when I’d first seen it as a kid. It might have been there when the Earth was formed for all I knew. My parents didn’t have to tell me not to climb “Memory Lane” – I was a tentative child. I knew I was different, that I didn’t fit in, and so I retreated into the only safe space I had – inside my head.

    The older I got, though, the more I thought about seeing what was up there. The day I first got rejected after asking a girl to dance, I looked up at the steps and thought about how they disappeared into a netherworld of leaves and brambles. But I did not climb. The day I didn’t get into college. The day I lost my mom. Then my dad. Memory Lane was mine, but I still did not climb.

    I don’t really know what kept me from that ascent, but I do know when I decided it didn’t matter anymore. I was sitting in my boss’ office, and I was being downsized. She said it made her sad to have to tell me, but it didn’t. I wasn’t much of an employee, but it really wasn’t much of a job. I didn’t have any savings to speak of, and I sure as heck didn’t have anything like a wife or a family.

    No one had been out here – save me – since my parents died, but the first flight of steps was still completely clear of overgrowth. The wood was solid under my feet, but as I reached the first landing, the entire staircase began to vibrate. I turned to head down the stairs, worried they’d collapse under my feet, but where there had been rocks and boards, there was nothing but my boss’ office, and me in a chair. I sighed, too empty to even be surprised. Setting my back to the past, I took the next step. There was nothing left but up, through a life that wasn’t worth living the first time around.

    360 words
    @drmagoo

  30. drmagoo says:

    Dammit! I thought the deadline was 8 pm MST. Well, my fault. I hope the story is enjoyable anyway.

  31. […] Here’s my entry to Flash Frenzy Round 37. […]

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