Flash Frenzy Round 51

Posted: January 17, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , ,

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 51 where I will be both host and judge this week. 🙂

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.

courtesy Aswin Rao

photo courtesy Aswin Rao

  1. davidshakes says:

    Blood From The Start
    David Shakes
    360 words

    It’s time to end this perpetual darkness, head back into the light.
    A terrible freedom awaits at the top of these stairs.
    There was a time I ran to what I am escaping, a time I’d run to him.
    I wasn’t some lovestruck teen, some wide-eyed country girl fresh in the city.
    I was just bored, lost in routine. I longed for something new.
    The city drags you into its grooves. You follow concrete trails to work; eat at the same places; grow familiar with faces you’ll ignore.
    And then there was him.
    I remember him standing on the subway platform, surrounded by commuters but somehow apart.
    It was less his dress than his mannerisms. He was above this, a disinterested spectator.
    His first words:
    “I’m not sure where you’re going but don’t. Take a chance, come with me.”
    I didn’t answer, just stupidly grinned.
    “I’m quite serious. I never ask twice.”
    He held out his hand. I stared at it incredulously.
    “Does this crap work for you?” I asked him, smiling.
    “You tell me, I’ve not actually tried it out loud before.”
    I took his hand.
    We rode the subway until dusk. My phone’s battery ran flat from missed calls and texts from work. He knew every station. He talked about the flow of commuters. He said the lines were like arteries – people the lifeblood of the city.
    So you see, there was blood from the start.
    Of course he hadn’t meant the city. These people were *his* lifeblood, then they were ours.
    But this life grew as mundane as the one I’d left behind. New grooves, same longing.
    His monotonous beauty, his effortless perfection bored me. The hum of the rails was a maddening tinnitus that stayed with me long after nightfall and the start of the hunt.
    I can hear him calling me from down there. Something new already, that fear in his voice. If it weren’t so ironic, I’d say I feel more alive than I ever did.
    Outside the sun is shining. It burns me from the inside out. Borrowed blood boils in my veins and they rupture.
    There’s blood at the end too.

  2. Heard But Not Seen

    Sam is chuckling. Cara hears him gurgle through the baby monitor from downstairs. She’d rather that than him crying – still, she’ll check on him, in case. Climbing the steep stairs, Cara enters the nursery, casting light into the dim room and cot at the centre. The mobile above it is swaying, casting dark circling shapes onto the white walls.

    “You creating trouble again?” Cara says, readjusting the blankets, kicked away from his short legs in his enthusiasm. “That’s your daddy’s influence. Going to sleep now? Or you’ll be cranky come morning – won’t you, Trouble?” The boy’s blue eyes are dimming; drowsy now, as Cara tucks his favoured teddy in, caressing his cheek. It is there at the corner of her vision – brief blur and gone – as she does. Or so she thought; heart leaping, breath quickening. Looking properly – carefully – she can see nothing is there. “No,” she says, determined, shaking her head. “No,” she repeats, louder. She casts a questing glance about the room, searching the shadows, before she reaches up – stopping the mobile’s dancing limbs mid-swing. Now, they are placid two dimensional again.

    With morning, she removes it entirely – ignoring Sam’s bellow as she consigns it to the cupboard, boxed. “Mum knows best,” she tells him. “Trust me – I speak from experience.” Cara smiles wryly.

    Still, by dusk Sam is laughing aloud. Cara hears his delight through the speaker, before taking the stairs at a run. The door is ajar. Throwing it open swiftly Cara sees Sam’s fists pumping – reaching. “No,” she says, shaking her head. “Not now, not ever.” Crouching before her son, she says, “They’re not your friends, you know.” With that, she settles herself into the rocking chair in the corner of the room.

    With a start, Cara wakes – the room silent before her. Darkness has fled before morning’s light, leaving the cot’s blankets cold and flat.

    “No,” Cara says, protesting. “No!” she exclaims. The room is innocuous; devoid of darker shade. She pauses; swallows. “Trade,” she says quietly. Louder, “Trade!” She stands, arms crossed, waiting, whilst the pristine walls remain blank – mocking – their brilliance unaffected by the slightest suggestion of blur.

    (360 words)


  3. zevonesque says:

    The Presentation
    A.J. Walker

    Allie looked in the mirror relatively happy with what she saw; it was her current favourite outfit (she knew Bill loved the boots). Ready twenty minutes early, some sort of record on this special day.

    Bill was running ten minutes late, so Allie had more time to think about things. She knew what she was going to say, it was just a question of presentation. No makeup required. She pushed down the front of her skirt getting the lines perfect.

    The engagement ring loomed large.

    Allie made a mug of instant tastelessness. She wanted wine, but that needed to wait.

    The ring flickered through her thoughts more like a crown filling her head.

    The clock intimated seven thirty, though ten minutes fast for the lie in effect.

    Allie heard the bell and Bill letting himself in; she took a deep breath. In the mirror she decided that she was in the wrong outfit and perhaps Bill’s favourite boots weren’t appropriate – but it was too late. Quick adjustments: time to get it done.

    “Be up there in a sec.” She called.

    She began ascending the narrow stairs to the living room. They looked longer, darker than usual. The top of the stairs were quiet and dimly lit, Bill hadn’t put the TV on; all about the question.

    She was sure Bill would hear her thumping heart from the sofa. The practicing – each careful word – disappeared with each laborious stair. She slowed her breathing.

    “Hi!” She said, smiling at Bill from the door.

    “Hi.” Said Bill. “Guess we should get to it?”

    “Of course,” Allie said, straightening herself up. “I’ve given it much thought. I’ll just get it straight out.” She looked at the carpet, noticing fluff balled by the chair leg.

    “Look, I’ve nothing to say in mitigation. It was a one night thing. I’m not proud, but it happened.”

    Bill looked at the silent TV, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else.

    “The ring is on the shelf. Like me now I suppose. It is over.”

    Bill left soon afterwards. Leaving only silence.

    Allie thought the presentation could have been better but the content had been pitched about right.

    (360 words)


  4. milambc says:

    Shadow Food (360 words)

    The dead squirrel wasn’t much of a conversationalist at this point. It just sat there, its back hunched over, head lolled to one side, some blood on its bushy, dead tail. Not say anything.

    Which was fine for Kennedy. Right now, she needed to think. The ceiling was thin and she could hear the mumbled voices of the teenagers. At least, she suspected they were teenagers given one boy’s barely-ball-dropped pitch.

    Words sifted down, gradually and settled into her mind, like kerosene. If she could keep her mind lit, ready to ignite an action plan, she’d make it out of this.

    Words like “police,” and “kill” and “body” and “fucker” “fucked” “fucking” and a well, one girl really seemed to like variations on the f-word. Maybe she was a whore and it was some Freudian shit, Kennedy thought.

    Kennedy felt the burn marks on the side of her neck from the stun gun. To her fingertips in the dark, they felt like a vampire’s bite. Except in this case, it wasn’t Brad Pitt with fangs sauntering to her, it was some angsty kids likely hopped up on meth. Or heroin. She wasn’t sure what kids were putting in their noses these days. Or asses. She’d heard about that, too, from Don Lindsay of Channel 9.

    Then she saw it. A few feet from the dead squirrel was a brick pile covered by a tarp. As if someone had started building something down here and tired of it.

    She picked up a brick from under the tarp. It felt heavy and dirty in her hand. Adrenaline flooded her veins in torrents.

    “This is a live grenade for those fuckers, squirrel,” she said to the dead squirrel. He/she didn’t say anything.

    With the feet of a would-be ballerina, she tip-toed up the stairs, keeping to the sides to avoid any creaks.

    The darkness of the stairway seemed to swallow all of her gumption and spit it back at her; glop dripped from her hair, face and the would-be weapon of mass teenage destruction.

    “Why didn’t you back me up?” Kennedy said in desperate breaths to the dead squirrel.

    The doorknob turned.

  5. Mark A. King says:

    Silhouette Sunday


    358 words


    Religion never really died – it just moved on.

    Technology. Lust. Money. Fame. The religions of the first-world fed on the detritus of absconded gods.

    And so it came it be; Silhouette Sunday, once born of ancient Easter – a time of birth from death.

    In the sterile factories filled with embryonic stem-cells, the DNA of the once-living sits waiting to multiply, to grow in predetermined sequences, to breathe the recycled oxygen of all that ever lived:  once again.

    One day each year, the dead can be brought back – for enough money, or favours that grant what money cannot buy.

    When they come back, they’re as alive as we are now – so the brochures say.

    Forget bringing back Elvis or Mandela. These are the walking-dead that fill Silhouette Sunday with their personal gratification, whatever that may be.

    In the subways. They rise from the tunnels of darkness, up the stairs and into the light of life. They clutch their Prada handbags like they are the forbidden fruit of Eden. They move silently through the shoals, the city-dwellers, the religious extremists of a different kind. Like bioluminescent fish, we swarm the streets with faces mood-lit in the spectrum of the latest emoto-tech. Stay away from me, come to me, I’m enigmatic and mysterious our mood-colours say. But the Silhouettes can see us no more than an earthworm can comprehend string theory.

    In the fields, the Silhouette people of bloodlust persuasion leave pink carpets of bovine entrails and bones. The snipers enjoy the practice once a year. The authorities call it containment, the snipers simply call it fun.

    In the strip-clubs they drool, they rub: they never last long.

    In the towns they watch the rain dancing, ping-ping-ping, in the puddles of xenon lights.

    They seek discarded trash; just to touch, just to feel the scratch of polystyrene on fingertips hours old.

    So much beauty. So much life.

    Sometimes they just sit there and breathe. They suck the recycled air of all that ever lived into their expanding new-born-lungs. They just breathe.

    The rapture of a life fully lived for one day.

    Religion never really died – it just moved on.

  6. Great take again this week, Mark! Beautiful use of language and an intriguing concept. Well done!

  7. Silhouette

    359 words

    My mother was a silhouette.

    “Momma, come and play!” I’d beg her daily. She didn’t, of course. She couldn’t. She was always smothered by her own shadow, the sunshine always behind her. Too far back to reach her, too bright for her to turn around and face it.

    I tried to make her happy. I’d show her every last one of my crayon dreams – of the nice house we would live in one day; of the flowers that would grow in the garden. Once, I even drew a daddy, coming up the garden path with a bright yellow sun in the sky.

    Silhouettes don’t smile. Silhouettes don’t laugh, and hug, and say, “You good boy Jason, that’s lovely!”

    I was just seventeen when I walked into our bedsit and found a body on the floor, the shape that it made there matching the dark outline I loved so well. Finally exposed to the cold light of day she was a blue shade of grey, streaked and spattered with orange. Sunlight bounced like diamonds off the bottle in her hand, and her eyes were like glass.

    I turned around and left. I wanted to remember that beautiful silhouette, not a set of straight edges being lowered into the ground.

    But enough about me, now.

    What about you?

    Well, you are very sweet. A real find. Yes, you are. The way your lips are quivering, now; the way you shudder at my touch. And oh, how close you held me, when those pretty arms were free to move!

    But you see, it’s perfection that I’m looking for. And the pinkness of your cheeks, the incessant trickling of your eyes…no, no. No. That’s just not perfect. I’ve seen with my own eyes that perfection is colourless. Featureless. And stained dirt-black with shadows.

    Oh, hush now-don’t you worry. No need to squirm and fret. You’ll be pretty as a crayon picture when I’m done. I’m going to have you hovering like an angel above the stairs, with the light from the cellar doorway straining down to reach you. And you’ll look just like my beautiful, perfect mother.

    My mother was a silhouette.

  8. voimaoy says:

    First Contact
    360 words

    Gold they were, and golden-eyed. The ship appeared out of nowhere, hovering over the field like a lenticular cloud around a mountain.

    “We come in peace,” they said. I had to shoo the dogs away, they were so excited, barking and wagging their tails. They usually don’t like strangers.

    There were two of them, a man, a woman. Yes, they were almost how I imagined they would be, so civilized and refined. Their eyes were golden- green, pupils with slits like moons. They said their names were Aram and Nareen. They were just stopping for repairs, some problem with the navigation system on the FTL Drive. I had no idea what that was.

    “There’s a hardware store in town,” I said, trying to be helpful. “Would you like some coffee?”

    Of course, the hardware store wasn’t open, and they didn’t want to stay overnight. My late husband, Ed, had tools in the basement, along with his ham radio set-up , which I hadn’t gotten around to packing up, yet. You know how it is. You look at the stuff, and you don’t know what to do with it.
    I told myself the hammers and electrical tape would come in handy, someday.

    “Excuse the mess,” I said, leading them downstairs.

    “Do you mind if I use the radio,” the tall one, Aram, asked me, and I figured Ed wouldn’t mind. I had no idea how it worked, but they had it up and running in no time, sending out an SOS or something in their language. There was no response.

    “I guess we’re on our own,” the small one, Nareen, said. Her gold-green eyes looked sad.

    “But you’re not alone,” I said. “Where are you from, anyway? Where are you going?”

    “We’re supposed to be on our honeymoon,” Nareen said. “We wanted to see the Northern Lights, the volcanoes, Mount Fuji. Your world is a beautiful place, but it’s kind of out of the way. Now we’re stuck here.”

    “This life is not so bad,” I said. “You can stay here as long as you want. But I have a favor to ask you. A ride in your ship, when it’s fixed.”

    • I find it wonderfully refreshing to imagine the beautiful things of our world might be enticing to other life in the universe. I love that your main character would embrace such an adventure.

  9. Security

    “Babe, I just came back to tell you…”
    He scrubs it back again, broken anew to see her decimated, jagged lines warping in unnatural angles as the ghost of her moves back in time again.
    “Babe, I just came back to tell you…”
    He pauses the image.
    She stands at the top of the stairs, only a few feet away from him, close enough to touch if his fingers wouldn’t just pass right through the filaments of light.
    In this frozen moment she is golden and beautiful, her hands so delicate that seem to have been drawn rather than grown into.
    But her hair covers her face.
    She can not see into the room.
    And he can not see if she looked happy or not.
    He hears her voice in his head, her figure still paused, “Babe, I just came back to tell you…”
    “Tell me what? What?” he screams back in his mind, choosing to focus on this moment instead of the one that follows. The one that makes him want to scream at her to go back down the stairs, to throw his body in front of her glowing, projected form so that maybe this time he will take the bullets instead of her.
    He pushes play. The first bullet hits her right shoulder, whipping her body back viciously, her hair finally flying away from her face but now her eyes are wide and her mouth twisted. No hint of what she had been thinking before.
    The second bullet burrows into her abdomen before she disappears from view, descending the stairs in a broken tumble.
    He remembers finding her at the bottom of the stairs.

    Their top of the line security system offers none of the help he had imagined. The recorded projection standing in his living room behind him now is a generic human form with a black mask and gloves. The intruder was as ghostly then as he is now.

    He would have thought that being unable to catch his wife’s killer would be what broke him.
    It isn’t.
    It’s that her last words were meant for him and he doesn’t have them all.

    358 words

  10. Amy Wood says:

    356 words

    Dreams — Shattered

    Degradation and sordid neglect oozed from the walls. Careless laughs echoed from the rooms at the top of the stairs, excruciating in their falseness. This was a place of forgetting, an oubliette for those unfortunate enough to have no options. No job, no money; no hope.

    Svetlana swallowed bile and clutched her cheap knock-off handbag. It was this or the streets. At least here she had a roof over her head and the promise of food in the morning. If she was lucky there might even be money. Maybe if she was extra good, smiled a lot and made the guy feel like he was rocking her world, he might tip her extra before leaving the room. That way she could hide the cash from Romana and avoid paying her the fifty percent she demanded. Being the Madam had its perks.

    Even a little extra money in her purse could make all the difference. Svetlana’s mother, far away in Vladivostok, alone and freezing for half the year, was depending on her. Leaving Russia had been a hard decision to make but what choice had Svetlana had? Failing the exam for the Bolshoi once was bad enough, six times was soul destroying. She was never destined to dance. Greatness belonged to others far prettier and more talented than her.

    Tears stung her eyes as she paused at the foot of the stairs. From dreams of dancing as Juliet had come the ruin of life as a prostitute. Romeo wasn’t waiting for her. The man in the room upstairs was probably fat and ugly. How the mighty were fallen.

    Breathing hard, Svetlana rose up onto her tiptoes. The grubby brothel walls melted away and she was dancing in Moscow, flying across the stage.

    “What are you doing?” Romana poked her roughly. “Get up there.”

    Svetlana’s beautiful daydream vanished. She was no Juliet, Romeo didn’t exist and she was wearing tacky stilettos instead of pointe shoes.

    Keeping her head high, she ignored Romana and climbed the stairs with as much grace as she could muster. She’d show the bitch.

    Reality sucked but dreams could never truly be broken.


    Brian S Creek
    257 words

    With seven steps to go I stop. I can see across the landing, I can see him standing there. Scruffy boots, faded jeans and that tacky leather jacket. They must have let him out and now the bastard has come back. It takes every ounce of courage to move my right foot and carry on up.

    Six steps to go and I catch a whiff of that cheap aftershave. My stomach heaves at the memory; him pressed against me, sweating, breathing, grunting.

    Five steps to go and my legs tremble a little, legs that he forced apart even when I shouted no. The bruises are still there but, unlike the memories, they’ll fade eventually.

    Four steps to go. I think about turning around and running but where would I go? Because of him I have no friends, no family. I’m alone in this city.

    Three steps to go and the butterflies suddenly begin to fade. I have a new feeling taking over now. The fear drains away and rage floods in to fill the void. I won’t let him ruin me.

    Two steps to go and I let out a little cough to get his attention. He turns around with that charming smile that I once fell for. Never again though, not now that I know the monster that lurks behind that mask.

    “There’s my darling wife,” he says.

    One step to go and I clench my fist inside my pocket, three keys poking out between fingers like claws.

    And when he screams no, I won’t stop.

  12. Stella says:

    Lost Souls
    355 words

    Her breathing was fast and irregular. She prayed it wasn’t as loud as it sounded. She was trying to be her normal self, invisable. No one ever acknowledged her, spoke to her, looked at her in all her years living here. But today someone would see her. Someone would remember her and she’d be on tomorrow’s six o’clock news. If she didn’t do it now she’d never have the courage again.

    “What did you say your name is girl?” The old man cupping a hand behind his ear.

    She was sitting on a frayed, dirty old armchair sipping Guiness from a chipped mug. At the top of the second set of stairs an arm had shot out of an opened door and she’d been pulled inside. For an old man he had suprising strength. Later on that evening he’d tell her about working on the building sites, out in all weathers and how rain never made a man rusty. That had made her smile, well a tiny smile, the old man noticed.

    He thought she was his home help, or the woman from the social, or an angel come to save him from what he’d planned next. He was invisible but today someone would see him. Someone would remember him and he’d be on tomorrow’s six o’clock news.

    She felt the knife in her coat pocket. It would be so easy to spill blood here.
    He looked at the knife on the kitchen table. It would be so easy to spill blood here.

    They talked for hours, visable for once. She felt a bit heady from the Guiness, she told him her name was Collette, from Letterkenny in County Donegal. She wasn’t. He told her he was called Joseph from South London. He wasn’t. They hid their secrets well. They didn’t tell each other of their plans nor past deeds. Tomorrow they would return to wear their cloaks of invisability trying to keep their blood lust under restraint for another day.

    The girl in the top flat slept safely in her bed, dreamfree for one more night until Collette or Joseph or both lost control.

  13. mariemck1 says:

    The stairs are her wings helping her rise from the dirt and grime of bedsit brown. She flutters at the top deciding in what direction she should take herself. Once away from the mouth of the stairs – that will devour her whole on her return – she can go anywhere that ‘s free. She’s made an appearance in crisp, white shirt (sink washed each night) and spit-shined shoes.
    She is anyone. Street-level luxury: free to wander by the churches or green paths until the cold, night air turns her away. Then, she’ll head to late opening stores where eventually, she’ll be swept out the doors.
    Too soon, she finds herself staring down. She listens for any of her mother’s ‘ungentlemanly’ callers, before
    off the edge of the world.

    (132 words)

  14. Stella says:

    so much in so few words… brilliant tale Marie… I toyed with my ‘heroine’ throwing herself off the roof 🙂

  15. Foy says:

    word count: 359

    “Tricks and Tarts”

    “Fuck. Me.” Desiree muttered, triple checking the address. This was it. A sign, hung over the door like a corpse, read “Bookends” in weathered lettering. It screamed “serial killer residence” louder than “bookstore.” Shielding her chest with Guccii–Chinatown’s off-brand–couldn’t stop the shiver that crawled from the base of her skull down her spine. She gripped the knob, icy against her skin, and pushed inside. “You better be worth this.”

    Henry Kempf had never wished his wife dead. Sometimes though he preferred the persistent clucking of the clock’s tongue than that of Beatrice’s. It ticked 9:27p.m., reminding him it was 2 hours past closing. Lamp light caressed the bindings, reflecting the care Henry gave them. He scratched initials next to the title of the last book borrowed: “Returned. HC”–he froze, pen poised on the tail of the “K” as the third step moaned.
    “Ms. Bell, is that you?”
    The fourth, fifth, and seventh echoed the third’s sorrow and a woman, all leg and bust, stepped into the upper office. Not Ms. Bell.
    “Can I help you?”
    “Working late, Mr. Kempf?” She approached, attempting charm.
    “I don’t like to leave business unattended.” His fingers turned the record book shut–shhhfump. “Do I know you?”
    “I was hoping to borrow a book,” she said and leaned into the counter until her neckline dipped.
    “I don’t know why. Clearly, you can’t read. Sign says we’re closed.” Henry disliked wasting words, and bush-beating squandered all of them. Her ruby mouth shot into an oval as penciled eyebrows dove downward.
    “Aren’t you rude–”
    “And you, more-so, frittering away my time.”
    “Alright, listen.” She straightened and her mahogany eyes swept the room. They were alone. “What I’m about to tell you, you can’t tell no one.”
    “If there’s a stipulation, I don’t want to hear it.”
    Fire burst into her irises.
    “I don’t need to take this!” She snatched her bag like a weapon and marched her infinite legs toward the stairs. At the top, she turned. “I don’t know why your old lady is afraid you’re banging hookers. You’re too cold blooded.”
    Henry Kempf’s heart teetered on the edge of guilt.

  16. Rebekah Postupak says:

    The Lyre

    “To the ends of the earth,” you say. The glow of your eyes burns like my father’s sun-chariot. As the king settles the ring of daisies around us and the mountain roars its approval, for a moment I almost believe you.

    “To the ends of the earth,” I say, and it is done.

    You have written me a song. At least, you say it’s for me. Your fingers strum the lyre expertly as you circle the glen. My sister-nymphs faint as your golden voice caresses their ears. Tears glisten even on the cheeks of the gods; your music is too pure for it to be an act. Why, then, does your glance seek everyone else’s eyes?

    I am not completely unnoticed, however. You are serenading the queen and do not hear your friend’s low, hungry song. Your sparking eyes devour the banquet, the gifts, and do not see me flee. You do not see me trip on my wedding gown and plummet into the vipers’ nest. You are not there as they strike again



    and Death scoops me up into his arms, murmuring as we descend into the earth, his eyes soft as doves.

    “Perhaps he will give his hand to the vipers and follow,” say the shadows.

    “Perhaps he will fling himself from the cliff,” they say, “and our lord will bring you your lover himself.”

    They do not know you.



    Then your song bursts like a bonfire in the darkness. You have done the unthinkable: unwilling to surrender your power, you have come here a living soul. Your warm fingers are dancing across your lyre.

    “You cannot have her,” says Death. His hand on mine is cool but firm.

    “Ah, but I will,” you say. Gold tinges your voice and eventually he yields, as they all do.

    “Do not look upon her until you reach the Overworld or she is mine forever,” he warns, his voice ice.

    Ascending, you laugh at us both.

    Ascending, you turn impatiently to bid me hurry.

    Your laughing eyes meet mine for the first time




    Death meets my eyes


    “Goodbye, lyre,” I say.

    359 words

  17. pmcoltrane says:

    The Light at the Top of the Stairs
    341 words, @pmcolt

    If not for laundry day, she would have died along with everyone else in her apartment. She remembered the buzz of the dryer, the scent of fabric softener, and the feel of warm cotton. Then the lights flickered out. The concrete floor shook her off her feet. Plaster dust filled her nose. And from up the stairs, the thud of the heavy door swinging shut.

    She woke within a red dungeon. Emergency lights lit the stairwell, and little else. For the first time, she noticed the sign on the laundry room door: three yellow triangles, and barely visible beneath decades of grime, the words “Fallout Shelter”.

    Her phone and the lights were dead. The heavy steel door to the basement laundry room was jammed shut. Throat hoarse from shouting, she slumped against the cold cinder block wall at the foot of the stairs and counted.

    One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi.

    Thousands of Mississippis blurred together. After an eternity, the dim red lights faded to black. From time to time, she crawled through the darkness. No food, no water: only laundry supplies filled the basement racks.

    Thirsty. Hungry.

    When she slept atop a pile of her clothes, nightmares of death and torment haunted her. Her friends’ voices screamed out to her in the darkness. Their faces appeared in front of her, gaunt, skeletal, irradiated. Hallucinations of familiar old haunts taunted her, then collapsed in a blazing inferno. When she awoke, darkness pressed against her eyeballs.

    Uncountable years passed. Surely she was dead?

    One day she awoke to find the door standing open. A river of white light poured down the stairwell. She stared uncomprehendingly up the stairwell, bathing in the glory of the light. What awaited her at the top of the stairs? Had everyone been killed? Did her city lie in smoldering ruins? Was she dead, and on her way to eternal bliss?

    After an age, she found the strength to stand. Step by step she ascended, not knowing if Heaven or Hell awaited. Either way, it was an escape.

  18. […] for the Flash Frenzy round 51 contest. It’s a little rushed, but I think I made it in before the deadline. The prompt is […]

  19. Geoff Holme says:


    Carrying the basket of clothes upstairs, I stopped on that same step…

    We’d finished the second bottle of Shiraz and were staggering and giggling our way up to the bedroom. I told Mike that I’d heard on the radio that the most popular place in the house to have sex is the stairs.
    “No way! I mean, how is that even possible? It’s sounds way too uncomfortable and dangerous.”
    “Your the man of science. I think you should subject your hyper… hyper…pothesis to experiment.”

    Maybe it was my fault. Hubris, arrogance that courts disaster.
    At the 20 week scan, when the sonographer asked if I wanted to know the sex of my baby, I had nodded.
    “It’s a girl.”
    I’d turned my head and looked at the monochrome movements on the tiny screen: my baby, my daughter.

    I look down at the pastel pink bundles and see the dark circles magically appear.
    Tears are the currency of grief.

    Word Count: 159

    (Late entry – laptop rebooted itself!!)

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