Flash Frenzy Round 54

Posted: February 7, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
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Welcome back! I trust everyone is having a lovely weekend. Many thanks to Brian S. Creek, who kicked off the year by winning 2 rounds of Flash Frenzy in January and is now going to try his hand at judging.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

  1. Twitter handle: @blurosemd
    Word count: 234 words


    I remember the day I found these tunnels. It had been a slow day for collecting sympathies from strangers. I had tried my regular spots—across from the writer’s graveyard, highway next to the Walmart, even next to the stadium. Nothing. I needed to find shelter.

    For some reason, the church and graveyard called to me so I followed the whispers. Winding between mausoleum and concrete marker I spied a small door tucked underneath the church foundation. Trying the latch,I was beckoned enter.

    Inside the corridor, I turned left and found mechanical caterpillars sheltering in the long concrete hallway. Soft step and patient fingers approached the first. My hands bounced like Plinko chips down its side—I was home. As I lay underneath its belly in the darkness, my mind surged.

    Next evening, more followed down a concrete throat to the waiting machines. Voices darted and found solace in stolen space. Within a week, we were united again.

    Last night, Plinko spoke as I lay underneath his belly in the dark. Sweet words of justice weaved warmth and safety across my body. I had responsibilities now as the chosen one to lead us to new life.

    Shivering at the thought of creation and retribution,I counted the hours until the sun issued the new day. I am ready, I told him. I was created for this moment.

    Only three more hours before paradise.

  2. MRMacrum says:

    One Way Trip – 358 words

    Three hours of crawling through slimy storm drains gained Francis entry into Elder Phelps’ wine cellar. Grate out of the way, he climbed onto the cool stone floor and collapsed on his back. He considered this poorly planned mission as he regained his composure. There had been no time for decent recon. The recent televised sacrifice of his Oxnard neighbors demanded an instant response from his 666er cell. He assumed it would be a one way trip.

    He shined his flashlight around the room. There were barrels and wine racks filled with bottles. Above him hung a chain with an iron ring. He shined his light on the grate. At once he knew what the chain and ring were for.

    Finding his way down a long narrow hall, he found the stairs leading to the kitchen. The map indicated he was to take the servant stairway on his right to the second floor. The master bedroom was the first door on the left.

    Making no sound, he found his way to the bedroom door. He thought it odd there were no bodyguards along his route. It was too easy. Francis shook it off, took some deep breaths, and pulled his knife out. Ever so slowly he turned the knob. It was unlocked.

    This was it. Time for some payback. He passed through the door and worked his way silently to the bed. A small night light plugged in near the bed was the room’s only light. A covered figure lay on the bed. Francis stood some moments over the bed, the grip of his knife slick with sweat. He wanted to look Elder Phelps in the eye when he slit his throat. He pulled back the covers, and immediately stumbled back in shock. He began to retch and cough. Laying there was Mrs. Simmons, ravaged and bloody. She was his friend and neighbor and one of the sacrificed he came to avenge.

    From the shadows, ”That’s right, we knew you were coming.” Francis turned as Elder Phelps and two of his AAG goons came toward him.

    “Take him back to the wine cellar. I will be down shortly.”

    This piece is hopefully going to be expanded and inserted into a longer piece of fiction I have been putzing around with for a couple of years.

  3. And Then

    “It’s not like you thought it would be, is it?”
    “I suppose not, no.”
    She smiles at the man.
    Her stiff white shirt with a stunted mandarin collar bares the name “Beryl” above the right breast in looping gold stitching. Then man thinks of janitors and auto mechanics.
    “Let’s begin our walk, shall we,” Beryl says, her invitation a polite formality.

    They walk down the corridor together, side by side, a woman in white and a man in muted browns and blues.
    They pass an occasional door as they proceed and the man reads the crisp block letters on each, “Always”, “Could Be”, “Never Was”.
    He pauses for a prolonged heart beat over a door labeled “Echoes”.

    Beryl stops in front of a rack of bottles.
    This is the first rack of five, each staggered along each side of the corridor walls.
    She gestures toward the bottles.
    “You may select three bottles to take with you. Please note that each rack is specific to one sense. If you make a selection from “Scent” you will be able to smell the moment but your brain will fail to conjure up and image, any sounds, etc. If you pick something from “Sight” you will see everything from that scene, but all other senses will be negated.”
    She stands to the side, a practiced smile in place while the mean steps forward timidly and begins to read the labels on the bottles.

    He is standing in front of the Scent rack.
    In unfamiliar handwriting he reads, “Father”, “Beach”, “October”, “Wife”. From this rack he chooses “Orange grove” because he doesn’t need to see it, or his sister to appreciate its beauty.
    He chooses “Wife” from the Sight rack and hopes he will see her standing in their kitchen, turning in the sunset light to smile at him when he arrives home.
    From Sound he takes “Lullaby” and hopes, believes, it is the sound of his mother singing to him as a child.

    Beryl walks him to the door at the end of the hall and bows to him.
    He nods back, clutching his bottles.
    She opens the door, and he walks through.

    359 words

  4. Stella says:

    245 words

    Hear my prayer

    We silently glided down the tunnel towards our spiritual home. I’d walked this walk for years. Following the sister in front, palms together, whispering the holy words that we were taught to say. I’d entered the sisterhood at puberty, this sacrifice given by my family to ward off evil spirits, protect their crops, make their remaining children strong and fertile. My parents were dead now, my sisters and brothers grown old with familes of their own. I was withered, burdened with my secret dreams and longings. I’d prayed for years to get my time back and God hadn’t replied or even listened to me.

    Today God would listen when I prayed to my new master. Dark thoughts had entered my head and heart. I didn’t even try to push them away like Mother Superior had instructed when thoughts of lust came to tempt us. They made me feel strong, in control, someone for once was caring for me. The voice, loud in my ears, I looked around to see if anyone else had heard. Hearing a tutting sound coming from Sister Mary Bridget I knew I would be flogged for this. The procession never deviated from looking straight ahead, eyes lowered in humility.

    I would take the communion wine with the rest of my community. Whilst they writhered and wretched from the effects of the strychnine I would rise from my body and be renewed. Lucifer had heard my prayer, this would be my revenge.

  5. Foy says:

    word count: 360


    “And there was light…”

    Six bulbs, sooted with dust and crumbling stone, illuminated the cellar. Vibrations in their electromagnetic field produced a sound similar to angry horse-flies, and this begrudging compliance made Louis Blalock feel all the more dominant. He simpered, letting his fingers linger on the switch before clup-clupping toward the first wine rack.

    “Where are you, my Argentine beauty?” Lovingly, he hovered over the bottles, twisting their necks until their bellies presented labels written in illegible script. Mrs. Blalock’s voice, acidic, echoed in his head.

    “I want Merlot. I don’t know why you bought all those Malbecs. I can’t abide them. The flavor’s too black.”

    “Ah-ha, there you are.”

    Cradling the wine, he wiped her clean of moth-colored motes and tucked her into the crook of his arm for the journey up. Since the servants ran off little more than a week ago, the kitchen had been his kingdom. He’d made pastas and soups, desserts and pastries and best of all Mrs. Blalock could either eat his “horse shite wrapped in pig swallow” or starve to death.

    “Ready for dinner, Love?” He called from the dining room, prying the cork from the bottle’s mouth. No answer. With one final check to see he hadn’t forgotten soup spoons or serviettes, he bustled to fetch her. Mrs. Blalock sat slumped, not bothering to acknowledge him as he wheeled her away from the fire.

    “Tonight we have a braised pot roast in a shallot-mushroom gravy accompanied by oven roasted carrots, potatoes, and asparagus.”

    He locked her in place at the head of the table and sat to her right. She stared at him, cold, unmoving.

    “Won’t you try it, Dear?”

    Nothing. Blood pounded through veins too small in Mr. Blalock’s forehead. His feast, savory and suitable for the November chill, was going untouched.

    “At least have some wine, then?” He besought and his skin tingled. For the past two nights, he’d succeeded in undermining her authority, first serving her Merlot with a healthy splash of Malbec, then filling her glass 50/50. Now, as he raised that black nectar to those iron lips, he was determined to watch her drink it dry.

  6. howdylauren says:

    Lancaster St Residents Perplexed at Unusual Crime Scene
    (356 words)

    Residents have said a restaurant never lasted more than six months on Lancaster Street. Maybe it was the ever increasing rent prices, maybe it was the exponentially more particular tastes of the neighborhood’s residents. Despite the long line of prior failures, each entrepreneurial hopeful arrived full of ambition and fresh recipes, an innovative business model and a comforting homey ambiance in mind.

    Interest typically piqued as the new establishment opened, often with colorful balloons and carefully traced chalk writing of the daily specials on the sidewalk sandwich board. Although the new owners could have saved a few dollars by reusing the previous renter’s furnishings, the building’s landlord said they insisted on bringing their own, as their materials had been painstakingly selected to match the intended unique decor.

    Weeks passed, and the initial curiosity would dwindle and business would slow, until finally the familiar “for rent” sign would appear in the window of the barren, hollowed building. As the restaurant owner sorrowfully packed up the throw pillows casually strewn across the benches, they never noticed the sandwich board go missing amidst their failed dreams of groundbreaking success on Lancaster Street.

    Underneath Lancaster Street runs an abandoned tunnel that few current neighborhood residents know about. It has been used for many things; originally built to provide easy access to the subway system for maintenance workers, it has since seen cult meetings, homeless families seeking shelter, and teenagers orchestrating amateur drug deals. Now, it is the setting for something much more unusual: the theft of failed restaurants’ sandwich boards.

    The sandwich boards, coincidentally all identical in color and design, lay undiscovered for years, due to the fact that the crimes went unnoticed by the neighborhood and the tunnels were–up until recently–rarely investigated. At the time of this report, it is still largely uncertain who is responsible for collecting the boards, or why they have stored them, seemingly undamaged or unused, in the tunnel.

    “After searching the tunnels, we have found little evidence to suggest any further criminal activity or human habitation. At this time, we are planning to remove the boards and close off the tunnel,” commented Sheriff Albertson.

    • Foy says:

      Lauren, I love the “official” tone of this piece! It reads like an unsolved crime piece out of a yellowed and well-read newspaper kept on file at the local library. 🙂

      • howdylauren says:

        Thank you! That’s what I was going for 🙂 I also was completely dumbfounded at the sandwich boards when I looked at the picture, so I wanted to communicate that feeling too.

  7. Auf Wiedersehen

    I had the idea to write a story about an old Hitler (without mentioning his name) who had an escape tunnel designed like the one in Berlin. As a gentle reminder of how important it is to be able to escape. Though he didn’t think he’d ever have to flee again. That’s why he had converted the tunnel into a wine cellar. The story ends when he’s drinking his favorite wine and listening to his favorite music and he’s so caught up in that moment, enjoying it to the fullest, he doesn’t hear his Dobermans barking outside.

    But then I had to do the shopping, I went swimming with my oldest son, I watched a movie (The Incredibles) with my youngest son who fell asleep on me, we had dinner, we put the kids to bed (they never want to go to sleep), I searched for a garden lamp (my wife didn’t like any of them), I designed kitchen shelves (you have no idea of the possibilities), then I went to bed. The next morning I got up when the kids got up, made them breakfast, did some fingerpainting, put on a few washes, emptied and filled the dishwasher, had lunch, the birthday party for my youngest son started (seven adults, six kids) (we live in an apartment), we put the kids to bed, my agenda reminded me that I had some work to do (facepalm) (it’s Sunday evening, for Christ’s sake), that I consequently did, then I opened a new document and I just sat there staring at the blank page with the blinking cursor, not feeling up to surfing to Wikipedia to find out what Hitler’s favorite wine and music was, not feeling up to writing the story, even though I had the idea and I had the framework and I thought it wasn’t half bad and I just couldn’t get myself to do the work – because ultimately it is work, let there be no doubt about it.

    Sometimes I wish I had an escape tunnel converted into a wine cellar. I’d have a bottle or two on the way out.

    354 words

    • Foy says:

      So many times I’ve considered writing something like this for various contests but it wouldn’t have been as grand. I’ll have a glass if you’ll share. 🙂

  8. Her Doors Unlocked

    Gentry glances briefly at his notes as he enters the room, pen in hand. “Ellie?” he says. “How are you feeling today?”

    “Doors open,” the woman responds.

    “I’m glad you remember our last conversation,” Gentry replies. “Do you want to sit on the chair whilst we speak? It might be more comfortable? Your feet look cold too. I found your slippers by the door,” he adds, flourishing the pair; standard white issue. He shivers inadvertently, though Patient 3234 seems unaffected – calloused feet displayed carelessly below the pyjama bottoms; toenails needing cutting. The soles of her feet are grime covered.

    “Door is me – free – you see?” Ellie sing-songs; tuneless.

    “The door is you. Yes, I see,” Gentry says. “The one behind us is unlocked too – well observed.” The man pauses. “Do you recall we unlocked some of your own doors last time we met, Ellie? That we talked about why you might have closed them? I’d like to discuss that, if I might? More specifically, we talked about Chloe. What happened to her.”

    “Dead,” says Ellie.

    “Yes. Unfortunately, she is. I’m sorry,” Gentry says. “I know you miss her. She was very young.”

    “Taken,” Ellie says.

    “Yes,” Gentry says. “Her life was taken. That’s right. We discussed how we might try to open the door to discover how that happened today given time ran short last time. I’m glad you remember. Do you want to try that lock now, together? To see what we might find, Ellie? If you’re ready?”

    “Ready, steady,” Ellie says. “He came,” she adds.

    “Can you see his face, Ellie?” Gentry asks. “Or is he still shadowed? Don’t worry. He might be until you’re ready. Can you see yet?”

    “Door – claw. No more,” Ellie says, voice catching.

    “It’s all right,” Gentry says. “We don’t have to talk about him if you don’t want to. Only when you’re ready.”

    “Here – clear,” Ellie says, tone urgent.

    “I think that’s enough,” Gentry says quickly. “We’ll leave it there.”

    Ellie laughs harshly; a mocking peal. “Date. Late. Fate,” she adds. Somewhere distantly a door slams shut – loud; reverberating. “Here. Near,” Ellie says. Behind Gentry, the door is opening on its hinges.

    (360 words)


  9. voimaoy says:

    The Sphynx of Samsara
    360 words

    Beneath the crowds and plazas of New City was the Old City, and beneath that was the Pedway, also called the Catacombs. It looked medieval, and it was indeed very old, from before they figured out how to program the weather. It was raining in the plazas this week, brooding and introspective and it suited his mood. Harris lit a cigarette as he went down the subway stairs.

    He was going all the way down, through the Catacombs, where the shadow people and the mutants lived. Lost souls came down here, often. Sometimes, they met guys with names like Jimmy the Weasel and Top Dog. He hoped he wouldn’t run into them this time.

    Part of the Catacombs was a bustling neon-lit bazaar, with signs for all sorts of delights. Harris ignored the fox and mink girls who were giving him the eye. He was looking for a certain place, a certain face. He came at last to the part of the Catacombs that was not so brightly lit.

    “Welcome to Samsara,” she said. She was a tabby girl, with golden eyes. “What brings you back, Detective?”

    “I’m looking for someone. Maybe you know who I mean?”

    “Not for me, surely?” She smiled sharp teeth, and he remembered not so gentle biting.

    “For you, Rosie,” he smiled, too. ” I came here for you. But first, I need to find the Sphynx.”

    “Why would you want me?” The Sphynx was old and wrinkled, her green eyes clouded with cataracts. “You handsome, pretty handsome, man. Is that mustache in style Up There now? I like it.” she purred seductively.

    “I’ve heard things,” Harris said. “I have questions.”

    “I don’t have answers. What do you want to know?”

    “You’ve been saying things about the City. The Mayor is becoming concerned.”

    The Sphynx laughed. “Why should he worry. No one believes me.”

    “Believe me, they do.”

    “What, that this world is hollow? That none of this is real? Welcome to Samsara, Detective Harris. You should stay here, stay with Rosie. Be happy in your one short life. I’ve lived many other lives before this. I’ve breathed among the clouds. New City’s days are numbered.”

    • Foy says:

      Voima, the characters you’ve created walk off the page! I want to pet the Sphinx (would she let me?) and sit for hours hearing more about this Old City under the New. 🙂

  10. zevonesque says:

    The Tomb
    A.J. Walker

    There is silence as solid as these insane walls around me.

    Generations have lived above these grand empty cellars built with thick perfectly cut rock.

    There are stories about these cellars. Sometimes there are noises, but now there is thick silence – making me fearful.

    The single slab of door is closed fast and seems a thousand miles away. I am in a closed box buried in the bowels of the earth.

    I am trapped, unsure whether anyone knows if I am gone or where I am.

    The racks of wine look modern – only a few hundred years old compared to the ancient limestone. These wines are not part of my world.

    It is unnaturally clean down here. I can smell nothing.

    I didn’t notice the silence go, but now I can hear crackling. It must be from behind the door; there are no other rooms here.

    There is some other noise and I eventually realise it is my teeth rattling away. For fear is cold.

    No one is coming to find me. But there is something behind the door. I don’t want the door to open, unless it is mum or dad or Danielle or Richie. But it won’t be them, it will be something horrid to gobble me up.

    This box will be my tomb. My bones will be all that is left picked dry and left in the corner for people to wonder at.

    There is a banging at the door. I can barely hear it above the crackling of the flames of hell. The old door sticks.

    I dart behind the last wine rack banging my bare knees on the floor. There is no point to these bloody knees. How difficult will I be to find in this room? Damn my noisy teeth.

    I can hear the door open. My eyes are closed tight. If I can’t see it then it won’t see me.

    ‘Come on, Simon.’

    The voice sounded somehow familiar.

    ‘Get back to the table. You won’t be having ice cream unless you finish all your greens.’

    ‘Dad, is that really you?’ I said, far from convinced. ‘Must I really eat all the broccoli?’

    (359 words)


    • Foy says:

      A.J., you drew me in with the thriller voice only to leave me laughing from the narrator’s dread over consuming greens. Well done! 🙂

  11. Kristen says:

    “Through the Tunnel with a Mediocre Muse”
    by Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    360 words

    Joe the Muse leads me through another tunnel. I’m tired of his bullshit. Last week, it was elevators that kept going down, never up.
    “Are you kidding me with this metaphorical stuff?” I shout. He’s wearing a t-shirt with the phrase ‘Write What You Know!’ in puffy letters across the front. “How did I get stuck with such a mediocre muse?”
    He stares at me.
    “Yesterday, I was crawling underground, through mud. ‘Write what you know’? Do I look like I fought in Vietnam, Joe?”
    We round a turn; a group of adolescent girls giggle together. Joe points at the one girl who’s isolated from the group.
    “I’m done writing about junior high,” I say.
    He sighs.
    We turn down a narrow, low-ceilinged hallway. Skeletal people in hospital beds surrounded by the beeps and hisses of death-paraphernalia.
    “Looking for story ideas, not fodder for insomnia.”
    Joe shakes his head.
    “Any happy topics?” I ask.
    A little girl jumps rope in a topiary maze.
    “Don’t try to trick me, Joe.”
    “I wasn’t.”
    “Liar. You know I associate jump rope with perished youth.”
    “Now who’s metaphorical?”
    “Mediocre,” I mutter.
    A silent guitar player sits in the corner of an empty subway tunnel; a sign next to him reads, ‘Sorry, no words.’
    “What’s that?”
    “The guy not playing guitar.” I point. He plays a short melody that nearly makes me cry. Then he stops.
    “Keep playing,” I say. “I’m inspired.”
    “Sorry,” he says. “I can’t seem to find my muse these days.”
    “Mine is mediocre.” I point. Joe skulks by the empty tracks with his back to us.
    The guitar player’s eyes pop open. “Joe, where’ve you been, dude? Who’s she?”
    “Joe’s my muse,” I say.
    He turns to Joe. “I thought we had exclusivity.”
    Joe takes off.
    “What just happened?” Guitar-guy asks.
    “We were two-timed by a mediocre muse.”
    “What does this place make you think of?”
    “Trains going nowhere. Melancholia. Lost dreams.”
    “Me too.”
    “Want to write a song?” He asks.
    I sigh. I’m not going after Joe, and I’m not ready to see where this tunnel leads.
    “Play that song again,” I say.

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